Title: Rain School
Author: James Rumford
Illustrator: James Rumford
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children
Audience: Ages 3-8 years
Summary: It is the first day of school in Chad and Thomas is one of the eager young student following the older brothers and sisters down the dusty road to school. But when they arrive at the schoolyard there is no class room; there are no desks, only a teacher who says, “Our first lesson will be to build the school.” So Thomas learns to make mud bricks, to build mud desks and mud walls, to gather grass for a roof and soon a cool classroom is ready. When the nine months of learning are over, the rainy season comes and the mud classroom and desks are washed away; the learning – the letters, the words, the geography – remains. The next year Thomas and the others will return to build the school and learn again. On the final page there is a map locating TChad (French pronounciation) in central Africa with population and land area information.
Literary elements at work in the story: James Rumford was a Peace Corp worker in Chad and came across the mud ruins of such a school one day. The site was the inspiration for this wonderful tribute to education and the human spirit. The pictures evoke the hot, dry climate of Chad and then the torrential rains that wash the school away. . The spare text and the richly colored illustrations bring this marvelous school and another land and culture to life.
How does the perspective on gender/race/culture/economics/ability make a difference to the story? While this is clearly a country with few resources for education, there is no feeling that they are poor. Boys and girls work together to build a school and pictures indicate that families or village residents lend a helping hand.
Theological Conversation Partners: Here is a marvelous opportunity to broaden our knowledge of the world God loves and God’s children who are our neighbors. As Christians we read with joy about the questing minds that God gives all children and this attempt to nurture learning. An internet search reveals that landlocked Chad is one of the poorest and most corrupt countries in the world with the majority of the population living below the poverty line, yet the eagerness to learn and the resourcefulness of the people is almost contagious.
Faith Talk Questions:
- Find Chad on the map in the back of the book.
- Look at the two page spread of the village on p. 3. In what work are people engaged? Is work like this done in your neighborhood or city?
- Do you remember your first day of school? Or do you anticipate your first day of school? Do you/did you feel like Thomas and the other first time students?
- In what ways is the school in Chad different from yours?
- In what way is it alike?
- Do you think God is pleased when children anywhere in the world learn?
- What has God given children no matter what the building or supplies so that they can learn?
- Think about Luke 2:52. Jesus went to a synagogue school. How do you think he felt on his first day of school?
This review was prepared by regular contributor Virginia Thomas.
Rain School by Storypath is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.