Why teach The Kite Runner?

A note from the author of this study guide:

On September 11, 2001, I was in grade 11 at a mostly-white, suburban high school in Southwest Ontario. My first period teacher got a TV so that we could watch the news when he heard that the World Trade Center had been bombed, and in his class we watched the second plane hit, the two towers come down, and we dealt together with the difficult realization of the loss of life we’d just witnessed.

Two of my teachers were particularly important to how I now believe I reacted to the events of 9/11. The first was that first period teacher, who taught English, and redirected our lessons to discussion and writing about the implications of a more dangerous world. The other was my art teacher, who gave the only Muslim girl in my class the floor and allowed her to tell us about her beliefs and her religion. He was right that if she wasn’t given that chance, we would have overwhelmingly heard about Islam through the frantic reporting that follows a crisis, and from people who didn’t necessarily understand what they were talking about. There just weren’t enough people to give us another point of view in my relatively homogenous classes.

Over the next few years the media coverage of the War in Afghanistan made it easy to believe that it was simply a backwards, hateful region of the world. I remember the shock that I experienced when I first saw photos of the country before it became a battlefield in the 1970s. The Kite Runner is written by someone with memories of that time, and gives a human face to the tragic history of Afghanistan through the story of Amir and Hassan.

In addition to giving students a first-person perspective on a part of the world that they might not otherwise experience, The Kite Runner presents opportunities to talk about history, race, trauma, sexism, Canadian refugee policy, and the immigrant experience.

Above all, it is a beautiful, if sad, story. I hope you enjoy sharing it with your class as much as I enjoyed reading it and preparing this guide.

The Kite Runner Study Guide

Exercise sheets

Chapter 1-9 Exercises

Chapter 10-13 Exercises

Chapter 14-24 Exercises

Chapter 25-28 Exercises


Afghan history

Photo Collection: Afghanistan in the 1950s and 1960s (before the wars) 

Photo Collection: The New Afghanistan (since conflict has subsided) 

BBC Timeline – Afghanistan profile


Dealing with discrimination

The Cat In the Hijab (game)

Afghanistan: Who are the Hazaras?
Video on Al Jazeera


Refugee Resettlement

Video: Hans Rosling/Gapminder: Why boat refugees don’t fly

Ottawa’s new cap on refugee applications upsets sponsors – Toronto Star

Refugee sponsorship can be a long, complex process – here’s how it works – The Globe and Mail

Canada limits the number of privately sponsored Syrian refugee applicants in 2017 – CBC News

The man who saved 200 Syrian refugees

The Bottom of the Boat Test – Macleans

Islamic Relief Canada Video Series: Rebuilding their lives

Afghan Women’s Organization – Refugee and immigrant services 

Human Rights Watch – The Mass Forced Return of Afghan Refugees



Mental health and children in conflict

Canadian Mental Health Agency: Brochure on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Save the Children – Invisible Wounds March 2017

Halima Mansoor – APS Survivors and PTSD_ Parents urged to get help instead of waiting on govt to help children (The Express Tribune)


Banned books, banned ideas

Freedom to Read Week (February/March)
(Freedom to Read is a Canadian site cataloging banned books. It sells Freedom to Read “kits” with posters and other resources are available through their site.)

Challenged Books and Magazines in Canada: February 2016

Goodreads list of top “Subversive Novels”

What Makes A Novel Subversive? (New Republic)

International Business Times – Buddhas of Bamiyan resurrected as laser projections

Destruction of Nimrud (National Geographic) (includes video) and Destruction of Hatra (The Guardian) (includes video)

UNESCO information on World Heritage Site: Hatra

Free Inquiry on Campus – A Statement of Principles by over One Hundred Middlebry College Professor

Statement on Principles of Free Expression _ Free Expression _ The University of Chicago


Poetry from refugees and immigrants

Poetry & Migration Project: because we come from everything

International Adoption

How Canada barred adoptions from Muslim countries — and used Shariah law to do it (CBC News)

The Islamic View of Adoption and Caring for Homeless Children

The Economist – International adoption_ Babies without borders

Reason.TV: Abandoned in Guatemala (Video)