The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind

Written by: William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer

Illustrated by: Elizabeth Zunon

Before Reading

Preview and Predict

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind tells the true story of William Kamkwamba, a young boy who saw the people of his village in Malawi suffering from famine and drought, and took matters into his own hands to bring electricity to his community. 


KWL Chart

Create a K-W-L Chart and have your child fill in the first two columns with information that s/he knows and wants to find out about the story. S/he can fill in the last column, "What I Learned", once s/he has finished the story.

What I Know

After reading the summary of the story, let your child think about what s/he already knows about the story. Who are is the main character? What is the story going to be about? What genre is this story (non-fiction)? What other stories fall into this category that s/he has already read?

What I Want to Know

Include questions that your child might have about the plot, characters and setting. Why was his village poor? How did the people in his community react to his trying to build a windmill? 

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As You Read

Build Vocabulary

Encourage your child to stop when s/he gets to an unfamiliar word. See if s/he can discover its meaning by using clues like prefixes and suffixes as well as the words surrounding it. There are several words in Chichewa, the indigenous language of Malawi, so encourage your child to also use context clues to figure out what they mean, although some may be more difficult than others. Be sure to keep a “Vocabulary Journal” nearby when reading so that your child can write down new words, that s/he has either already defined or wishes to look up in the dictionary. Some of these new words may include:

  1. MAIZE


Monitor Comprehension

Be sure to stop every once in awhile to check for comprehension and discuss certain parts of the story. Ask questions like, "What do you think will happen next? If you were William, would you have...? Why doesn't anyone believe that William can do this?" 

After Reading

Make Connections

Have your child write down his/her answers to these questions and then discuss them. 

  1. What problems did William and his village face?
  2. Where did William learn how to build a windmill? 
  3. William kept working even though the people in his village thought he was crazy at first. Why did he do that? How did the people react later on?
  4. If you were to draw a picture about the story, what details would you include.
  5. William Kamkwamba was one of the authors of this book and this story is about himself. Why do you think he chose to tell his story?
  6. William saw a problem in his community and decided to take action. Can you think of a time when you saw a problem and did something about it? It can be in our home, at school, or in our community. 
  7. Did you like this story? Why/why not? What did you learn from it?

Extending the Story

Create A Model Windmill



Help your child make a model of a windmill with some simple supplies like a half-gallon carton, rocks, a pencil, and a pinwheel toy. You can use a fan, wind or your breath to get it going. Let your child try different methods and see which one is the most effective.  


You can also take an artistic spin and encourage your child to create a picture that s/he feels tells William's story. Encourage him/her to use different materials to mimic the way that the illustrator in the book used different patterns and textures to create the images. 


STEM Extension

Is your little one curious about the ins and outs of making electricity? Well s/he can learn about what electricity is and the different ways that it can be generated like with coal, water, and biomass.