This year, as we mark the 70th anniversary of our work for children, UNICEF has invited writers from all over the world to pen a short story on the theme ‘what I want for every child’. More than 200 authors have answered the call, weaving their vision of a world in which all children enjoy the right to survive and thrive, to learn and to grow up healthy and safe from harm.

Here is a selection of their tiny but powerful stories of courage, anger, love – and, most of all,
for every child, hope.

Share the ones that inspire you, and join by sharing your own tiny story on Facebook, using the hashtag #foreverychild.

Authors

Pullquote from story: I want every child to go to sleep well-fed...

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

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.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie grew up in Nigeria. She is the author of the novels Purple Hibiscus, Half of a Yellow Sun, and the story collection The Thing Around Your Neck, all of which received numerous accolades. Her latest novel, Americanah, won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction and The Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize for Fiction; and was named one of The New York Times Ten Best Books of the Year. A recipient of a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, she divides her time between the United States and Nigeria.

Pullquote from story: What really matters in a pencil is not its wooden exterior, but the graphic inside.

Paulo Coelho

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.’

Brazilian author Paul Coelho’s best-selling books, including The Alchemist and The Pilgrimage, enchant readers from around the world. He has won numerous international awards for his works, which have been translated into more than 65 languages. Through the Paulo Coelho Institute, he uses his global appeal to combat poverty and help underprivileged members of Brazilian society.

Pullquote from story: And I wish every child can feel safe at home and outdoors, and I don't want anyone to be harmed.

Michelle Nkamankeng

My dream for every child

My dream for every child is for them to want to dream to achieve the talent they are good at.

And I wish every child can go to school because education is important.

And I wish for every child a peaceful home, and when a child is sick I wish a person can take care of him/her.

And I wish every child can have fun with no wars and that all the children who don’t have blankets, socks, jerseys could keep warm.

And I wish every child who wants to write a book does not go off-track.

And I wish every child can feel safe at home and outdoors, and I don’t want anyone to be harmed.

And I want every child to inspire others with their talents and to be themselves without showing off.

Michelle Nkamankeng was born in Johannesburg, South Africa in 2008, and showed an interest in reading and writing very early on. By the age of 7, she had written four books – Waiting for the Waves, The Little Girl Who Believes in Herself, The Little Mouse and The Golden Ring. Her first book, Waiting for the Waves, was published in September 2016. Michelle is a member of a children’s charity group Missionary Childhood Association (MCA), which works to support and inspire children to achieve their dreams.

Pullquote from story: ...she takes it back smiling and with a skilful move fashions a string butterfly.

Christina Lamb

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.

Christina Lamb is a multi award-winning journalist for the Sunday Times. She has acted as Washington Bureau Chief for the paper and in 2009 she was awarded the prestigious Prix Bayeux Calvados for her reporting from Afghanistan. She won the Foreign Press Association Award for Story of the Year in 2007, and was also named Foreign Correspondent of the Year in the British Press Awards. She is the author of the best-selling The Africa House, Waiting for Allah, The Sewing Circles of Herat, Small Wars Permitting and I Am Malala, co-authored with Malala Yousafzai. She has recently authored Nujeen, an inspiring story of a young Syrian refugee girl with cerebral palsy who made the journey to Europe from Syria in her wheelchair in search of a new life.

Pullquote from story: I want every child born anywhere to delight in what life offers...

Nuruddin Farah

I want every child born anywhere to delight in what life offers these days. This includes immunization jabs; good schools during their childhood; peace and its dividends at home and out of the home; a comfortable enough life with little or no stress until they can look after themselves. I would want every child to enjoy these and other rights to peace, rights that confirm their dignity, safety and full humanity.

Nuruddin Farah, a novelist, playwright, and essayist was born in Baidoa, Somalia. He is the author of over a dozen novels and the winner of several major literary prizes. He divides his time between Cape Town, where he resides for much of the year, and Annandale-on-Hudson in upstate New York, where he teaches at Bard College in the fall.

Editor's choice

Pullquote from story: She could honestly believe in herself and never give up hope.

Bina Shah

For the Afghan child in rags who rummages through the garbage
For the hungry girl who stands at the traffic light begging for coins
For the little boy who hunches over a machine in a factory
For the girl-child who stands in the doorway with another child on her hip
For the baby who isn’t wanted because it's another mouth to feed
For the boys and girls who don’t go to school because it’s not safe
I want them all in a field of flowers, playing...

Bina Shah is a writer of English fiction and a journalist living in Karachi, Pakistan.

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Please be aware: All stories are shared and tagged directly by their authors.
UNICEF cannot filter the stories that appear in the feed for suitability or appropriateness.