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Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Paulo Coelho, Christina Lamb Pen Hope in Tiny Stories For World’s Children

Flickr - Colin Patterson, Commonwealth Foundation

167 million children will continue to live in conditions of poverty unless the world becomes a more equal place by 2030. 

263 million children are currently out of school, and 50 million are uprooted from their homes due to conflict, climate change, and violence.

Children rarely have the chance to voice outrage at these injustices. But many people work tirelessly on behalf of children to make their stories heard. 

This year marks the 70th anniversary of UNICEF’s work to protect the rights of children around the world. In a beautiful call to share the message, and spread awareness #foreverychild, UNICEF launched a global campaign called Tiny Stories asking more than 200 celebrated authors, poets, novelists, and playwrights to write a tiny story for the world’s children. 

Authors, Christina Lamb, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Nuruddin Farah, Shahla Latifi, Michelle Nkamankeng, and Paulo Coehlo were among the many who took on the challenge to contemplate “what I want for every child," and write a response of around seven lines. 

Together, the authors represent voices from more than 40 countries including Nigeria, Somalia, Afghanistan, and the United Kingdom, to reflect a truly global perspective that honors the rights of children. Their stories act as a literal metaphor for children around the world — though tiny in form each is profound in it’s power, hope, and strength.

Below are three truly inspirational tiny stories from some of your favorite authors. 


Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

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I want every child to go to sleep well-fed

And not worry about the next meal

Or the next.

I want every child to have primary healthcare.

I want every child to be protected by adults

And to take for granted the kindness of adults

And never to be treated like adults.


Paulo Coelho

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A boy was watching his grandmother write a letter. At one point he asked:

‘Are you writing a story about what we’ve done? Is it a story about me?’

His grandmother stopped writing her letter and said to her grandson:

I am writing about you, actually, but more important than the words is the pencil I’m using. I hope you will be like this pencil when you grow up.’

Intrigued, the boy looked at the pencil. It didn’t seem very special. ‘But it’s just like any other pencil I’ve ever seen!’

‘That depends on how you look at things. It has five qualities which, if you manage to hang on to them, will make you a person who is always at peace with the world.’

‘First quality: you are capable of great things, but you must never forget that there is a hand guiding your steps. We call that hand God, and He always guides us according to His will.’

‘Second quality: now and then, I have to stop writing and use a sharpener. That makes the pencil suffer a little, but afterwards, he’s much sharper. So you, too, must learn to bear certain pains and sorrows, because they will make you a better person.

‘Third quality: the pencil always allows us to use an eraser to rub out any mistakes. This means that correcting something we did is not necessarily a bad thing; it helps to keep us on the road to justice.’

‘Fourth quality: what really matters in a pencil is not its wooden exterior, but the graphite inside. So always pay attention to what is happening inside you.’

‘Finally, the pencil’s fifth quality: it always leaves a mark. In just the same way, you should know that everything you do in life will leave a mark, so try to be conscious of that in your every action.’


Christina Lamb

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Cat’s Cradle

She comes to me with a hesitant smile and a loop of red thread held up between her fingers. I haven’t done a Cat’s Cradle for more than 30 years. The girl is waiting. She and her family have travelled more than 3,000 miles from their Afghan village where the Taliban threatened to kill her for learning English, to this camp on a Greek island which is sunny and safe but they cannot leave. In the camp they call her Princess because she is always so immaculately turned out and well-mannered. I take the string between my fingertips and manage a simple back and forth and she takes it back smiling and with a skilful move fashions a string butterfly. But when she passes it again and I try to make a Jacob’s Ladder, it has been too many years and the string gets tangled and she walks away a sad princess.


The stories don’t end here - to read more tiny stories visit www.unicef.org/tinystories or head to Facebook to write and share your own story or read more from fellow Global Citizens.