Children at Mehr-o-Mah Empowerment Center, in Search of their Island of Happiness

The Island of Happiness, a book written by Marit Törnqvist, tells the tale of a girl in search of happiness. Due to its poetic, philosophical content and exquisite illustrations, this book won the award for best illustrated book of Flanders and the Netherlands. Marit granted the copyright of this great picture book to the Read with Me program which the Institute for Research on the History of Children’s Literature published in 2019.

One of the tutors at Mehr-o-Mah Empowerment Center, in a marginal, deprived area of Tehran, shared this book with her students.

Below, you can read her report, explaining her experience in reading “The Island of Happiness”:

Date: April 2019
Read with Me Program in Mehr-o-Mah Empowerment Center
The Island of Happiness
Sepideh Gholipour

Activities Before Reading Aloud:

Together with the children, we looked up “Island” in the encyclopedia. When we read about Philippines and Japan, children helped in finding these islands on the globe.

Then, on a blue cloth, children built islands using cloth, cardboards, yarn balls, etc. They also built a boat with a girl inside. One of the children made the girl a comb and a handbag.

We then sang “If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands”.

Then I gave the children two copies of “The Island of Happiness”. I Read-aloud some parts and children Read-aloud the rest.

I asked them about their opinions on the island of happiness.

Activities During Reading Aloud

During Reading Aloud, I talked with children about the details of illustrations and encouraged them to talk about the unwritten aspects of the book.

  • In the picture where the girl is lying on the boat, children believed that she was tired, so now she’s sleeping. Some others suggested that she may be hungry.
  • Children thought her friends are watching her. “Where are her friends?” I asked. “In the ship. They’re watching her through its windows.” They said.
  • When we reached the page full of ships and boats, one of the children said “No one has made their boats and ships themselves. No one but the girl…”

We discussed the different islands through a game in which each group had to explain what they thought was happening on each boat and each island.

In the end we talked about what the final island would look like, and how the girl could make her life anew and do the things she loves to do.

Activities After Reading Aloud

I asked children what their island of happiness looks like. If you were to ride on a boat and search for your island of happiness, where would you sail off to?

  • My island of happiness is an island on which I’ll find a friend.
  • My island is full of sweets. If I eat one, another will grow. My teeth will never decay no matter how many I eat.
  • Its full of happiness and kindness. Without sadness and hatred. Full of health.
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