Based on a true account, this book tells the story of Salva Dut, an 11-year-old boy separated from his family by the civil war in Sudan, and Nya, a girl from a small village who walks miles each day to fetch water for her family.
Below are some reading passages that we have hand picked to supplement this book. Be sure to read the passage summaries and our suggestions for instructional use.
Alphonse Daudet (1840-1897) was a French writer. This story about the repercussions of war on culture takes place in Alsace after the Franco-Prussian war. In the tale, a young Alsatian boy is met with a surprising announcement when he arrives at his French class: French lessons have been forbidden, and only German may be taught in their region.
Introduce this text after students have read Chapter 2, and followed Salva’s story as he rushes from school into the wilderness at the sound of gunfire. Pair A Long Walk to Water with “The Last Class: The Story of a Little Alsatian” and ask students to discuss how both Frantz and Salva are subjected to sudden change. How do both boys deal with change? What are the effects of war on everyday lives?
In the early 1900s, a Christian missionary named Reverend Sidney Endle authored a book about the Kachari, an ethnic group indigenous to the Assam region of India. His book includes written translations of several folktales, including “The Story of the Lazy Boy,” in which a boy misses his opportunity to plant during planting season.
Introduce this text after students have read up to Chapter 4, when the old woman allows Salva to stay and sleep in the barn. Have students read this text in order to analyze characters through a cross-text comparison. How is Salva’s attitude, once he is allowed to stay at the barn, different from the lazy boy’s attitude? How does Salva’s hard work affect the way the old woman treats him? How does the young boy in the short story suffer for being lazy? What lessons can be learned from the two stories?
In “Learning to Read,” a former slave describes what it was like to be prevented from obtaining an education and learning to read as an adult.
Introduce this text after students have read up to Chapter 4, and now know it is Nya’s job to carry water back and forth all day while, before the gunfire, Salva considered himself lucky to be able to go to school. Have students read this text in order to use it to discuss one of the sub-themes within the book — how the girls in the story are not able to go to school. Have students discuss the value that the speaker in Harper’s poem places on learning to read. Have them identify evidence to support their answer. Ask students to discuss how Harper would feel about Nya and Salva’s sisters not being allowed to go to school? Discuss the reasons why you feel it is either fair or unfair that the girls in the book don’t get to go to school.
In the informational text “Strength in Numbers,” the grouping of organisms and their roles in the natural world are discussed.
Have students read this text after they have finished Chapter 6. Salva has made a friend in Marial, he is reunited with Uncle Jewiir and their group continues to get bigger. Have students use the text in order to examine the human tendency to group themselves together. How do Salva and the group of people he is walking with rely on each other? How does Salva directly benefit from being in the group? How would you use the BirdBrain Science text to classify both Salva and Nya? How might Nya’s family rely on numbers once they begin to camp at the lake?
In this article, Science News for Students explores the ways that stress can be both harmful and helpful in our daily lives.
Have students use this text after they have read up to the end of Chapter 13, when Salva has led the other boys on a long journey from Ethiopia to Kenya. Have students use the scientific research to study Salva’s character. How does Salva reduce a mountain into a molehill? Do you believe that Salva would’ve felt any of the things that Stevens talks about in her article? How has Salva coped with stressful situations so far in the novel?
This account comes from a 16-year-old Syrian girl named Amira and details the past three years of her life in a refugee camp in the neighboring country of Lebanon.
Share this text with students after they have read up to the end of Chapter 14, and have followed Salva as he spends time at refugee camps in both Ethiopia and Kenya. Have students read this text alongside the novel in order to provide them with a broader insight into life at a refugee camp. What are the similarities between Salva and Amira’s living conditions? How do both Salva and Amira pass the time while they are living in the camps? Ask students to imagine how they might feel living in a camp.
In this fable of Aesop, a thirsty crow is desperate for a drink of water.
Introduce this simple fable after students have completed the book, in order to discuss the main characters, Salva and Nya, as well as the larger themes in the book. Have students use Aesop’s fable to figuratively interpret the themes in A Long Walk To Water. How have Nya and Salva, like the crow in the fable, used their own ideas to overcome obstacles? How can the water in the pitcher be used as a symbol for something more for Nya and Salva? What does water mean to each of them, both literally and figuratively? What “long walks” did they each take to “water?”