Reading lesson: Welcome to Nowhere by Elizabeth Laird

Home learning focus

Using the novel Welcome to Nowhere you will learn about how specific words have an effect on the reader.

This lesson includes:

  • two videos of actor Layton Williams reading extracts from the book

  • three activities

Learn

Watch actor Layton Williams read an extract from Welcome to Nowhere.

As you watch, think about the following:

  • What do you now know about Musa?

  • To what extent do you agree with the statement 'bullies never conquer'?

Layton Williams reads an extract from 'Welcome to Nowhere' by Elizabeth Laird

Now watch Layton read another extract from Welcome to Nowhere and think about the following questions.

  • What impression do you have about Omar’s parents as you read through this?

  • Should girls and boys have equal standards of education worldwide?

Layton Williams reads an extract from 'Welcome to Nowhere' by Elizabeth Laird

Practise

You may need paper and a pen or pencil for some of these activities.

Activity 1

Extract 1

Musa and I went to the boys’ school. The teachers had written him off for years and said he was stupid. They never even tried to understand what he said, so after a while he just gave up talking. It was true that his handwriting was rubbish, because he couldn’t stop his hands from jerking, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t learn anything.

If I’d been laughed at and bullied as much as Musa had always been, I’d have given up going to school altogether too, but Musa had guts. He stuck with school – bruises, torn-up notebooks, insults and all. By the time he was twelve, he’d earned a sort of grudging respect and most of the school bullies just left him alone.

He had a lucky break in seventh grade though. His teacher, Mr Ibrahim, wasn’t like the others. He discovered what our family had known all along: Musa was a total brainbox. He could do difficult equations in his head as easily as blinking. He actually liked reading books, which was more than anyone else I knew. If you could be bothered to sit and listen to Musa’s mangled-up speech, he could tell you the most amazing things about whales, human DNA, the Ottoman Empire, snakes and the atmosphere of the planet Jupiter.

Twelve-year-old Omar was born and raised in Bosra, Syria. But when his older brother, Musa, gets mixed up with some political activists, everything changes and Omar and his family have no choice but to flee their home. Published by Macmillan Children’s Books.

Omar is very honest about his brother Musa in this extract and we find out lots of information about Musa. However, we also find out more about Omar too.

Look at the excerpts from the text below and explain what they tell the reader about Omar.

Excerpt from the textWhat this tells the reader about Omar
If I’d been laughed at and bullied as much as Musa had always been, I think I’d have given up going to school altogether, but Musa had guts.
He discovered what our family had known all along: Musa was a total brainbox.
He actually liked reading books, too, which was more than anyone else I knew.

Activity 2

Extract 2

'The schools for the boys are better too. You want them to have a good education, don’t you? Then we must take this chance.’

Ma stopped crying. She took the shawl away from her face and I saw a flash of fear in her eyes.

‘The 'schools for the boys'?’ she said anxiously. ‘You did mean a school for Eman too, didn’t you? She’s so clever and she works so hard. Please, Hamid.’


Baba’s lips tightened. 
‘Education’s a waste of space for girls. Eman’s sixteen already. It’s high time she married. I’ve had a good offer . . .’

Ma gasped. 
‘Marriage! Not yet! You know how she wants—’

'She’ll do what she’s told,’ Baba said, in the kind of voice that none of us usually dared to contradict.


Angry red spots appeared on Ma’s cheeks. She took a deep breath.
 ‘If you insist on taking her out of school, I – I won’t go to Daraa. You can go with the boys, and Nadia and Eman can stay with me.’

‘Don’t be ridiculous,’ snorted Baba. ‘I’ve given up the lease on the flat. You can’t possibly stay here.’

I was holding my breath, stunned at Ma’s courage. I’d never heard her defy Baba before.


Look at the ending of this extract:

I was holding my breath, stunned at Ma’s courage. I’d never heard her defy Baba before.


Omar has never heard his Ma defy Baba’s words (his father) before.

Read the whole extract again and track Ma’s words; actions and behaviours. Make notes or jot down what she does and says.

Choose three examples from the extract and write sentences that show how she as a character comes across in this extract.

For example:

  • She took the shawl away from her face and I saw a flash of fear in her eyes.

  • This shows that Ma wanted to show her whole face to Baba. She wants him to see how she is feeling. Although there is a flash of fear in her eyes, we know that she is about to defy him. So as the reader, we can feel her strength. Even though she has fear, she feels strong enough to tell Baba her views on the subject.

Activity 3

Read the first extract again.

Musa had been misunderstood until his teacher realised how clever he was. Does this remind you of anybody else – real or fictional?

Think about other books that you have read; programmes that you have seen; films or plays at the theatre. Some characters are misunderstood by other characters in the plot whilst others are misunderstood by the reader/audience.

Write a paragraph to summarise how a character of your choice has been misunderstood and the impact that may have had.

If you cannot think of another character, you can use the first extract and write about Musa.

There's more to learn

Bitesize Daily lessons
KS3 English
Macmillan Children's Books