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BLAST Elementary
Running Shoes

Running Shoes

Running Shoes
Written by Frederick Lipp
Illustrated by Jason Gaillard

Sophy, a determined young girl living in an impoverished Cambodian village, fulfills her dream of going to school--with the help of a pair of running shoes.


Open-Ended Questions

These questions can be used during an interactive read aloud to engage student interest.

  • Who is the man? Why is he coming? (page 1)
  • What do you think Sophy’s wish is? (page 5)
  • How does Sophy feel about school? (page 7)
  • What are some of the differences between Sophy’s culture and ours? (page 11)
  • How does the fact that Sophy is fast prove her worth? (page 18)
  • How did the shoes change Sophy’s life? (page 24)

Vocabulary Words

  • Strike
  • Monsoon


Muddy Art

Running Shoes is set in Cambodia, which is in southeast Asia between Thailand and Vietnam. During the Khmer empire, Cambodian artists created amazingly intricate sculptures and works of architecture that reflected the strong influence of the culture and religions of India. In the story, Sophy used the mud near her home to write words and she loved the feel of it between her toes. Your students can combine Sophy’s love of mud with Cambodia’s strong history in sculpture by creating their own “Mud Man” sculptures. You will need plastic table cloths or newspapers to cover the work area, a large plate for each student, and 4 large bowls filled with mud (a clay and water mixture will work too). The students can be split into groups, with each group working out of one of the mud bowls. Instruct students to start out with one handful of mud. They can add more a little at a time as they work. Once the basic form in finished, let the sculpture dry a little. Then students can come back and carve designs in it using sharpened pencils.

Running Distance

In the story, Sophy ran 8 kilometers to get to school and another 8 kilometers to get home each day. Using the formula 1 kilometer = .621 miles, help the class calculate how many miles Sophy traveled each way (about 5). As a class, you can look at a local map and try to find a well know location that is about 5 miles away from the school to give the students a sense of how far it would be for them to travel the same distance. You could take it one step further and try to walk part of Sophy’s journey. If there is a football field with a track nearby, the class could do a mile walk. Four laps around the football field is equal to one mile.  After walking one mile, you can have a class discussion about how much further Sophy’s journey was.


Extending Books

The Caged Birds of Phnom Penh

The Caged Birds of Phnom Penh
Written by Frederick Lipp
Illustrated by Ronald Himler

A young Cambodian girl saves her money to buy a bird on which to make a wish for her poor family's future.


A Song for Cambodia

A Song for Cambodia
Written by Michelle Lord
Illustrated by Shino Arihara

A biography of Arn Chorn-Pond who, as a young boy in 1970s Cambodia, survived the Khmer Rouge killing fields because of his skill on the khim, a traditional instrument. He later went on to help heal others and revive Cambodian music and culture.