He is You: Sharing biographies to empower our students

This week, we started a biography exploration.  It serves to connect informational text with genius hour with habitudes.  On Thursday and Friday, my students read about a man named Craig Kielburger, one of my personal favorite geniuses. 

To sum up his story: at age twelve, Craig read a newspaper about Iqbal Masih, a child laborer working in slavery conditions in Pakistan and was outraged.  He raised money (including selling his own toys) to be able to go on a seven week trip to Asia to talk to child laborers.  When he returned, he shared his experiences with his classmates and the organization “Free the Children” was born.  They seek to assist communities and children in particular to ensure they have education, safe water, food, healthcare, and job opportunities.  This organization grew from just a few students meeting at Craig’s house to a global powerhouse.  Craig has now been the leader of “Free the Children” for TWENTY years (he is currently 32 years old). 

I know many our students come to us feeling like they aren’t good enough to evoke real positive change in our world.  They often expect a “genius” to be older, wiser, richer, and smarter than they are. 

THANKFULLY, Katie and I spend our year helping our students find their OWN genius –>Helping them understand that a genius is just someone who got the world unstuck about something. 

After reading about Craig, we watched an interview that featured him and his brother showcasing some amazing global outreach they’ve been a part of.  Students stared watching Craig when he first started out as a student in sixth grade… just like them.  They heard him speak about reading and learning from books to decide on his passions… just like they do.  

The kicker of exploring Craig as a biography was when we were reflecting together at the end.  There was definitely a buzz in the classroom talking about all he has accomplished over these last twenty years.  I looked my sixth graders in the eye, one by one: those eyes full of potential and imagination, and hope.  I said to them, “Yes, Craig has done awesome things.  Yes, he’s bringing about positive change in our world.  But that’s not why I picked him for us to experience together.  I picked him…. because he is you.”

Craig isn’t smarter or better or richer or wiser than any single human sitting in our room that day.  He was sixth grader who saw something he wanted to change.  Simple as that. 

Any of our geniuses can do that same. 

Learn more about Craig and Free the Children here: www.freethechildren.com



  1. Kristin – I’m inspired!! What pieced did you read about Craig? Could you please add them to this blog post? I’m saving it to my Evernote and my list of biographies. I, too, like to share biographies, but they’re normally in the form of picture books. I’d love to have a few weeks of only biography texts!! Thanks so much for this post. I LOVE that you saw the kids in him.

    • Joy, so sorry I didn’t see this until now! It’s hard to weed through all the “fake” spam comments to find yours. The piece my students read about Craig is in the “Chicken Soup for a Better World” book actually. His website is http://www.freethechildren.com There is tons on there about his story with videos and clips of his ACTUAL time in Asia interviewing kids back when he was twelve.

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