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When I Get Older: The Story behind "Wavin' Flag"

Last updated Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Author: K'NAAN and Sol Sol
Illustrator: Rudy Gutierrez
Date of Publication: 2012
ISBN: 1770493026
Grade Level: 3rd    (GLCs: Click here for grade level guidelines.)
Date(s) Used: Mar. 2013

Synopsis: “Wavin’Flag” has become an international anthem. Its powerful words of hope have crossed generations and borders, and have made K’NAAN an international star.

In his first book for children, When I Get Older, Somali-Canadian poet, rapper, singer, and songwriter K’NAAN tells his own story. Born in Somalia, he grew up in Mogadishu. His grandfather was a renowned poet who passed on his love of words to his grandson. When the Somali Civil War began in 1991, K’NAAN was just thirteen. His mother made the difficult decision to move her family so that they could grow up in safety. First in New York and then in Toronto, K’NAAN faced many challenges.

Like so many other immigrants, he had to make a place for himself in a world of alien customs, clothes, and language. His road was a hard one: he lost many friends to violence. But K’NAAN’s love of music, and his enormous talent, became a way for him to connect with his past, with his classmates, and eventually, to millions of people around the world. Not only does K’NAAN tell a story that will inspire and encourage young readers, but he provides a brief history of the Somalian conflict. The lyrics of “Wavin’ Flag” are also included.

Note to readers:
•  The author provides the history behind the song "Wavin' Flag" and how it became the anthem for the 2010 FIFA world cup. The lyrics can be found at the end of the story, along with a short history of Somalia.

Discussion topics for before reading:
•  Has anyone heard the song "Wavin' Flag"? Do you have any idea what it might be about?
•  Does anyone know where Somalia is?
•  Have you ever felt different from everyone else? What did you do to make yourself feel better?

•  Somalia- a country in Africa that has no central government
•  Civil War- a war between citizens of the same country
•  Refugees- people living outside their country due to a fear of being targeted because of their race, religion, nationality, or political opinion

Discussion topics for during/after reading:
•  What made K'NAAN feel safe when he was scared? What do you do to feel safe?
•  Why did K'NAAN have to leave Somalia? Why couldn't his grandfather come with him?
•  Why did K'NAAN punch a boy at school? What could he have done instead?
•  How are songs like poetry?

Craft ideas:
•  Using construction paper, create your own flag of the country you, your parents, or your family came from!
•  Read the lyrics at the back of the book. Create your own inspiring song lyrics.

*Note: These craft ideas are just suggestions. You can use them, but you don't have to use them. You can expand upon them, or add your own twist. Remember, though, that the focus of your time should not be on the development and execution of a craft; the focus should be on the read-aloud and the enjoyment of the book!