[Nonfiction Wednesday] Breaking the Cycle of Poverty through “Twenty-Two Cents” – The Story of Muhammad Yunus and the Village Bank

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Myra here.

We are delighted to join the Nonfiction Picture Book meme 2016 hosted by Alyson Beecher @ Kid Lit Frenzy. We would also be linking our nonfiction choices with our reading themes throughout the year.

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I read this picturebook biography a year ago but didn’t have a chance to share it. As we highlight global issues and our interconnectedness as a species, I thought that Muhammad Yunus’ inspiring story would be a perfect book to feature.


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Twenty-Two Cents: Muhammad Yunus and the Village Bank

Written by: Paula Yoo Illustrations by: Jamel Akib
Published by: Lee & Low Books, 2014 ISBN: 160060658X (ISBN13: 9781600606588) Book Awards: Best Children’s Books of the Year (Bank Street College of Education), Notable Books for a Global Society – International Reading Association (IRA), Best Multicultural Books – Center for the Study of Multicultural Children’s Books. Personal Copy of the book. Book photos taken by me.

Over the next few weeks, I will be sharing two more picturebook biographies of people whose lives have been profoundly influenced by Muhammad Yunus’ vision and his fierce intention to help empower the poor and bring back dignity and freedom that enabled individuals to break out of the cycle of poverty through micro-financing. I thought I might as well share the seeds of the idea first before anything else.

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As I was reading Yunus’ story, I was struck by how his entire life seemed to have been moulded into a life of service. From his parents who were open-handed with the needy despite their having very little to begin with, his involvement with the Boy Scouts and their frequent outreach programs to the community – all these enabled him to see first-hand the stark poverty in his hometown, what came to be known later on as Bangladesh.

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Yunus was a diligent student, and was keenly interested in economics and spreading information about financial literacy to the community. He also had the opportunity to receive a Fulbright scholarship to study economics further in the United States and had even been invited to serve as a teacher at Middle Tennessee State University. However, he decided eventually to go back to his own country when the war between Bangladesh and Pakistan ended.

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It was then that he started what later came to be known as Grameen Bank or “village bank” after an encounter with a lady named Sufiya, one of the many women in his city, who relied on a moneylender (a mahajon) to survive. All she needed was twenty-cents to get by, to move on to the next day and the next – or what people know as a hand-to-mouth existence. While Yunus could easily loan the twenty-two cents, he figured out a more sustainable way of providing micro-credit financing to these women who were perceived as “banking untouchables” because they were illiterate and had no credible means of paying back the money they owe, on top of the fact that the money they are asking for is too little for a bank to concern themselves with.

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I read this a second time to prepare for this review, and I remain astounded by Yunus’ commitment, his tenacity of purpose, and his very systematic and structured way of ensuring that he gained the poor women’s trust by really listening to their stories, standing in the rain for hours while his female students persuade the women to consider being part of the village bank, and ensuring that the women are taught the very basics of financial literacy for them to be responsible for the money that they owe and ensure that they survive and have sufficient savings besides.

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Teachers would be happy to note that there is also an extensive Afterword that provides even further details about Yunus’ life. The publisher, Lee & Low has also prepared this extremely comprehensive 11-paged teachers’ guide that has a whole list of themed questions and possible activities that may be explored in the classroom.

I also found this interview with Muhammad Yunus organized by the World Economic Forum. It’s 14 minutes long but it’s well-worth your time and shows exactly how twenty-two cents can help save a life. Enjoy!

5 Comments on [Nonfiction Wednesday] Breaking the Cycle of Poverty through “Twenty-Two Cents” – The Story of Muhammad Yunus and the Village Bank

  1. I’ll look for those next books you’ll share, Myra. I know about Twenty-Two Cents, inspiring! Thanks for reminding us about Muhammed Yunus.

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  2. Oooh, I remember seeing this a few times, but haven’t picked it up yet. Thanks for the reminder!

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  3. I read this one and really enjoyed it. It’s a great introduction to the idea of micro-lending.

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  4. The illustrations are marvelous!

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  5. This book looks beautiful. And Muhammad Yunus is new to me, so I am off to Google about him.

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