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Missing Childhood: The Plight of Child Soldiers



Missing Childhood: The Plight of Child Soldiers
Reading Level
     edHelper's suggested reading level:   grades 4 to 6
     Flesch-Kincaid grade level:   5.33

Vocabulary
     challenging words:    minefields, tremendous, ranks, emotional, vulnerable, abuse, ritual, recruit, traditional, combat, education, organization, fate, apology, healers, unique
     content words:    United States, Human Rights Watch, Communist Party, Sixteen-year-old Leela, Rights Watch, In Angola


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Missing Childhood: The Plight of Child Soldiers
By Colleen Messina
  

1     Two boys running across a green field carrying black guns might seem like a game from a distance. After all, lots of children play with plastic toy guns in the United States. It might seem like a normal part of childhood. However, some children with guns are not playing a game. Their guns are real, too, because they are child soldiers.
 
2     It might be hard for you to imagine children as soldiers, but there are many child soldiers. In 2006, the Human Rights Watch organization estimated that there were at least 300,000 child soldiers. They defined child soldiers as those under the age of 18 who served in armed rebel groups or government forces. Some children are as young as eight years old. The HRW estimated that child soldiers existed in 33 armed conflicts. Child soldiers have been used all over the world, in all kinds of climates and political situations. They have fought in Mexico and Russia. Child soldiers have also fought in Afghanistan, India, and Iraq.
 
3     You might wonder how children become soldiers. Some children are more vulnerable to this fate than others. Many orphans and refugees have become soldiers. Other poor children or those who have been separated from their families have also joined the ranks of armies. They sometimes believe that the armies will give them food or security. Many others are taken against their will. They are forced away from their loved ones to join an army.

Paragraphs 4 to 10:
For the complete story with questions: click here for printable


Extended Activities:

1.  Pretend that you have the opportunity to help some children who have been child soldiers. Make a list of activities you could do with them. Who could help you to help these children? What would you do to try to understand them and the pain of their experiences?

2.  Design a poster against turning children into child soldiers. Your goal is to make people more aware of the situation and encourage them to take action. What kind of pictures and words would be effective in order for you to achieve your goal?



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