Class of 2021: I am Malala

At age fifteen, 2014 Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai was shot by the Taliban after speaking out for equal educational rights. By reading her story together, we aim to unite students and staff for readings, discussions, and activities centered around a core theme: "the power of education."

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About the Book

A young girl raised in a once-peaceful area of Pakistan now transformed by terrorist activity, Malala was taught to stand up for what she believed in: the importance of education. Despite threats to her and her family, she continued to speak out for her right to attend school. Her courage nearly cost her her life. One day, while riding the bus home from school, she was shot in the head by a Taliban gunman. Today, she continues to be a strong advocate for equal access to education around the world.

Read about Malala's "Books Not Bullets" campaign.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I keep my book?

  • Unfortunately, no. All One Book, One Helix books belong to Helix Charter High School. You will be required to return your book on the designated return day.

Can I write in my book?

  • No, you may not. Because these books belong to Helix and we would like to use them again, please do not write in your book. If you want to take notes, highlight quotes, or use other active reading strategies, please use sticky notes, index cards, or other non-permanent devices to do so.

Why was this book chosen?

  • We chose I am Malala as the Summer 2016 selection due to the powerful overarching theme of the importance of education. Malala's story is relevant not only because of her age, but also because of her determination, family history, and desire to make a positive impact on the world.

Will I be graded on I Am Malala?

  • Yes. Freshmen classes will include assignments, quizzes, and tasks for students to complete, with the assumption that all students have read I am Malala. These tasks will start the first day of school with a short quiz in your Helix First class. YourSummer Assignment will be due on Monday, August 14th.

In which classes will I be expected to show my understanding of I Am Malala?

  • Helix First, Introduction to Social Studies, AP Human Geography, and Freshman English have all worked together to create curriculum and assignments specific to the One Book, One Helix text.

I am confused about an assignment or the book itself. Where can I ask questions?

Can I read the book online or find my own copy?

  • Of course you can! We encourage all students and parents to read the book in any form or medium they are comfortable with. Please know that you are still responsible for the hard copy the school has loaned you, and will be expected to return it in good condition.

What if I have lost my copy of the I Am Malala book?

  • Please contact the school librarian, Christina Potter ([email protected]) in the case of a missing or lost book.

Where can I find more about Malala? 

  • There are additional resources here

I want to talk to others about Malala's story. Will there be an opportunity to share my opinions and perspective?

  • There will be multiple opportunities throughout the year to discuss the specific and general themes addressed in I am Malala. Please listen for announcements about these opportunities.

Checks for Understanding

As you read, consider these questions, and challenge yourself to read deeper.

  1. How is Malala similar to her parents? How is she different from them?
  2. In the first chapter, Malala describes herself as someone with many identities: Pashtun, Muslim, female, student. How do each of these influence her? How do you identify yourself, and how does this influence your own opinions and actions? 
  3. Malala, though different than many kids we many know, does share interests and feelings common to a lot of teens. What are some of those interests and feelings?
  4. What is your favorite part or quote of the book? Why?
  5. If Malala lived in San Diego or in your neighborhood, what issue(s) do you think she would want changed? What are issues that you feel passionately about?


Check your understanding with the questions below:

Part 1: Before the Taliban

  • Why does Malala say that she is "a girl like any other?" 
  • What is her daily life like, when she is young?
  • Why does she dream of having a magic pencil? 
  • How do Malala's parents view education? 
  •  How do Malala's parents view their daughter's role in the family? 
  • What is the TNSM? After the earthquake in 2005, what do the TNSM leaders say the people must do, to escape more "warnings from God?"   

Part 2: A Shadow over Our Valley

  • Who is the Radio Mullah, and what message does he spread? 
  • What are some of the changes that the Radio Mullah calls for? 
  •  How does Malala's family respond to the Radio Mullah's warnings and demands? 
  •  What happens to those who violate the Radio Mullah's rules? 
  •  How does Malala's father respond to the Taliban's threat against him? 
  • What happens to Benazir Bhutto that makes Malala realize that "no one is safe?" 
  • What happens when the army comes to challenge the Taliban in her town? 

Part 3: Finding My Voice

  •  How do Malala and her family respond to the Taliban presence? 
  • What is the reaction in her town when the announcement comes that girls will no longer be allowed to attend school? 
  • How does Malala fight back against the Taliban? 
  • What is the response from her family and friends? 
  • What is the lesson that Malala learns from the American TV show Ugly Betty
  • What precautions do the girls take when the attend the "secret school?"
  •  Why is Malala's family forced to leave their hometown?
  • What changes do Malala and her family find when they return home?

Part 4: Targeted

  •  How does Malala learn about the death threat against her? 
  • What is her reaction to finding out about the death threat? 
  • What are the girls from Malala's school accused of doing during a field trip? 
  • How does the attack against her happen? 
  • What is the last thing she remembers thinking, after she is shot? 

Part 5: A New Life, Far From Home

  •  What is the first thing Malala thinks, when she wakes up? 
  • How does she communicate, until she is able to speak again? 
  • What two things does Dr. Reynolds give her? 
  • What does she see when she first looks in a mirror? What is the first thing she writes in her pink diary after seeing her reflection? 
  • What challenges does Malala face during her recovery? 
  • Why do the doctors put a piece of Malala's skull in her abdomen? 
  • When she finally sees her father again, why does Malala say that he is "not himself?" 
  • What does Malala learn about the worldwide response to her shooting? Which celebrity is she especially excited to receive a message from? 
  • Why does Malala's family think the warning from the young man in Birmingham is funny? 
  • What is the one thing that Malala says she is afraid of? 

Summer Assignment

Due Monday, August 14th in your Helix First class.

Choose an activity from the options below. The guidelines for each activity are intentionally “loose” in order to encourage creativity and individual expression. While we expect that you will challenge yourself and do your best work, we’re less concerned with page length, word count, and formatting, and more interested in a thoughtful, reflective response to the book.

Use your imagination. Be creative. And allow the power of Malala’s story to inspire you.

Your creative response assignment will become part of a “I Am Malala Gallery Walk,” to be displayed in the Helix Library during the first month of school.

Click here to see the grading rubric.

Example projects:

Questions about the summer assignment? Please contact:


Every freshman is expected to complete ONE activity from the list below:


Watch Malala’s speech to the United Nations (available on YouTube here). Then, write your own speech, focusing on an issue that’s important to you. If you had the attention of the world’s leaders, what would you say? What’s your message to the world? You may turn in a written version of your speech, or you may record yourself delivering the speech.


Choose an event from the book and “report” on this event in the style of a newspaper article. (Stretch your imagination on this. Although Malala’s shooting is a powerful and emotional moment in her life, there are many other significant moments in the book that you could use as inspiration.) Your article should be written in the style of professional news articles. (Read articles in The San Diego Tribune, New York Times, or Los Angeles Times for examples. Think of the Who, What, When, Where, and Whys.)


Create your own graphic novel / comic book adaptation of Malala’s story.  Choose the major events of the book and do an “abridged” graphic novel version, OR choose a major scene / event and illustrate it in graphic novel format.


Choose an important scene, or setting, from the story and create a model of that scene using clay, a shoebox, balsa wood, or other materials of your choice.


Create a “book trailer” (similar to a movie trailer) that promotes the book I am Malala. Use live actors, puppets, stop-motion, or a “slide show” format...or use a free online tool like PowToons or GoAnimate to create an animated trailer. Upload your finished video to YouTube.


Create a collage that portrays a character or theme from the novel. The collage should be larger than 8” X 10” and should provide insight into the personality and development of a character, or illustrate a major theme (the power of education, social justice, etc.) of the book.


Write a letter to Malala that includes the following:

Your reaction to her story / what her story means to you

What you felt was the most powerful message in her book and why

Questions you’d like to ask her


Create a timeline outlining major events of the book and their significance. The timeline should have at LEAST 10 events and include photos, drawings, clipart, or other graphics that help illustrate the events you choose to include.


Create a drawing or painting inspired by the book. This could be a scene from the book, a thematic response (focusing on education, social justice, response to terrorism, etc.), or something else that sparks your creativity.


Write a poem, song, or rap inspired by the book. You could re-tell part of Malala’s story, or write a “social message” piece that helps further her message about the importance of education or individual rights, or do something else connected to the book. Record a performance of your piece and upload it to YouTube.


Create a website inspired by Malala’s story or her commitment to educational opportunities and social justice. Your website could call attention to her work, provide ideas for teens to get involved in their own communities, or focus on another area of the book that you found interesting or important. Google Sites is a great platform for Website creation.

Additional Resources

We have listed links to videos, articles, and blogs to help you better understand the book.

You will also find volunteer opportunities to help our own community.