Free the Children: A Young Man Fights Against Child Labor and Proves that Children Can Change the World

Free the Children: A Young Man Fights Against Child Labor and Proves that Children Can Change the World

by Craig Kielburger, Kevin Major


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Here is the dramatic and moving story of one child's transformation from a normal, middle-class kid from the suburbs to an activist, fighting against child labor on the world stage of international human rights.

Making headlines around the globe, Graig Keilburger and his organization, Free the Children, which he founded at the age of twelve, have brought unprecedented attention to the worldwide abuse of children's rights. Free the Childrenis a passionate and astounding story and a moving testament to the power that children and young adults have to change the world, as witnessed through the achievements of one remarkable young man.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780060930653
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 11/17/1999
Series: Harper Perennial
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 384,172
Product dimensions: 5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.75(d)

About the Author

Craig Keilburger has received the Roosevelt Freedom Medal (with Free the Children) and the State of the World Forum Award. He is Ambassador to the Children's Embassy in Sarajevo and was named a Global Leader of Tomorrow at the 1998 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. He has also received Canada's Governor General's Award for Meritorious Service. Free the Children is Craig Keilburger's first book. He lives with his family in Canada.

Kevin Major received the Vicky Metcalf Award for a body of work inspirational to youth. He lives in Newfoundland.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One


My mind goes back to April 19, 1995. 1 woke to sun streaming through my window, a welcome sign that summer was on its way. It was Wednesday, another school day, one I was looking forward to, in fact. Today were the tryouts for the cross-country running team.

As I stretched my way from under the blankets, I watched my dog go through her own waking-up ritual at the foot of my bed. I hauled on a pair of jeans and a sweatshirt.

"Hey, Muffin. Let's go, girl." I gave her a playful rub about her neck and off she went, racing ahead of me and down the stairs.

My mother, up for an hour or more already, was in the kitchen making lunches. The Kielburger household would soon be heading off to school. Both my parents are teachers. There were just the three of us; MY older brother, Marc, had gone away to a junior college in January.

"Hi, Mom. The paper arrived yet?" I said, pouring cereal into a bowl.

"It's on the chair."

Every morning I read the comics before heading off to school. Doonesbury. Calvin and Hobbes. Wizard of Id. These are my favourites. If I find one particularly funny, sometimes I'll cut it out and post it on my bulletin board, or tape it to one of my school books. We all can use a good laugh every day.

I picked up the Toronto Star and put it on the table. But I didn't make it past the front page. Staring back at me was the headline "Battled child labour, boy, 12, murdered." It was a jolt. Twelve, the same age as I was. My eyes fixed on the picture of a boy in a bright-red vest. He had a broad smile, his arm raised straight in the air, a fistclenched.

I read on. "Defied members of 'carpet mafia."' Scenes from old movies came to my mind. But this wasn't any such mafia; the dateline was Pakistan. The boy was someone named lqbal Masih.

I read quickly through the article, hardly believing the words before me.

Islamabad, Pakistan (AP) — When lqbal Masih was 4 years old, his
parents sold him into slavery for less than $16.

For the next six years, he remained shackled to a carpet-weaving
loom most of the time, tying tiny knots hour after hour.

By the age of 12, he was free and travelling the world in his crusade
against the horrors of child labour.

On Sunday, lqbal was shot dead while he and two friends were riding
their bikes in their village of Muridke, 35 kilometres outside the eastern city
of Lahore. Some believe his murder was carried out by angry
members of the carpet industry who had made repeated threats to
silence the young activist.

I turned to my mother. "Have you read this? What exactly is child labour? Do you think he was really killed for standing up to this 'carpet mafia,' whatever that is?"

She was as lost for answers as I was. "Try the library at school," she suggested. "Maybe you'll find some information there."

Riding the bus to school later that morning, I could think of nothing but the article I had read on the front page. What kind of parents would sell their child into slavery at four years of age? And who would ever chain a child to a carpet loom?

Throughout the day I was consumed by lqbal's story. In my Grade Seven class we had studied the American Civil War, and Abraham Lincoln, and how some of the slaves in the United States had escaped into Canada. But that was history from centuries ago. Surely slavery had been abolished throughout the world by now. If it wasn't, why had I never heard about it?

The school library was no help. After a thorough search I still hadn't found a scrap of information. After school, I decided to make the trek to the public library.

The librarian knew me from my previous visits. Luckily, she had read the same article that morning and was just as intrigued. Together, we searched out more information on child labour. We found a few newspaper and magazine articles, and made copies.

By the time I returned home, images of child labour had imbedded themselves in my mind: children younger than me forced to make carpets for endless hours in dimly lit rooms; others toiling in underground pits, struggling to get coal to the surface; others maimed or killed by explosions raging through fireworks factories. I was angry at the world for letting these things happen to children. Why was nothing being done to stop such cruelty?

As I walked through my middle-class neighbourhood, my thoughts were on the other side of the world. And my own world seemed a shade darker.

That evening I had great difficulty concentrating on my homework. I pulled out the articles I had brought from the library and read them over, again and again. I had often seen the faces of poverty and malnutrition on television. At school we had discussed the famines whole nations have been forced to endure. But this was different. For some reason these descriptions of child labour had moved me like no other story of injustice.

Perhaps it was because the stories were of people my own age, and many even younger. Perhaps it was because these few words had shattered my ideas of what childhood was all about — school, friends, time to play. I had work to do around my house — carrying out the garbage, cleaning up the backyard — but it all seemed so trivial compared to what these children had to do.

I thought of how I would react if I found myself in their place. I felt sure I would rebel, gather everyone together and stand up to the cruelty. But I wasn't in their place; I could only imagine what I would do.

Table of Contents

4Back to Dhaka62
10Karachi and Islamabad178
14Cochin and Bombay260
15Thornhill and Beyond280
16What Is Childhood?290
AppendixGet Informed ... Get Involved307

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Free The Children: A Young Man Fights Against Child Labor and Proves that Children Can Change the World 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Free The Children was a very emotionally touching book. At the age of eleven seeing someone my age make a difference really inspired me. Now I am working harder at learning the affects of child labor. This is a great book for both children and adults alike.
IsaacW on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was by far the best non-fiction book that I have ever read. What I liked best about it was that it was written by a child who was my age. Craig Kielburger is an amazing kid who at 12 years of age first learned about child labour and decided to fly across the world to go learn about child labour in south Asia. This book tells of his trip to countries like India, Nepal, Pakistan, Thailand and Bangladesh. But this is much more than a travel story. Through reading the book you learn many astonishing and sometimes horrifying facts about the children who have to work sometimes fourteen hours a day. This book is about the children.It is the best!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Ddfdefftgvhjjiggthvfybvggvjf jvjhjh u ygi itducic hycgshdgdh udyxkxuxuxgx if your wondering whet this is my 1year wanted to put somthig so i let her
Shawscribbles More than 1 year ago
My daughter has been telling me all about Free the Children's work for years. She has been to We Day Vancouver multiple times, Take Action Academy, We Day Toronto and this year she won the Canadian Living Me to We Youth in Action Award. To say she has been inspired by Craig and his story would be an understatement. So I've had a long standing respect for Free the Children and Me to We but I didn't know the story behind the organization. Caitie has owned Craig's book for years now so I dug it off her bookshelf and jumped into it. Yes, this is a biographical memoir but it is so much more than that. It is an amazing story of how a 12-year old boy started a worldwide movement. Craig is a gifted writer. What could be a dry read (so often these kinds of books tend toward the boring) is instead a book that is filled with adventure, humour and passion. I found myself experiencing a whole range of emotions: awe, pride, sadness, fear, worry, respect and happiness. A book that can take you on a ride like that, surely is a keeper. I'm now recommending this book to all the young people in my life. This is more than just the story of a young Craig Kielburger or the story of the start of a movement. This is a story of enlightenment. A story that will inspire you to take action to make this planet a better place for everyone who lives on it and to become an informed citizen. And it isn't just children who should read the book: adults everywhere will learn much from this story. If you are thinking of something to buy a young person in your life, this is the perfect gift. One that has the potential to change someone's life forever!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Kiss your hand 3 times, repost this on 3 different books, and look under your pillow
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Ok sounds a bit violent and sooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo sad. But also a little creeepy. Havent read it but dont want to. Not a fan. But one of u was right it does sound powerfull.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This sounds like its a really good book thats why ik getting it
Jg Carse More than 1 year ago
This book is one huge reason why i will be going to india in march 2012