The Kite Runner presents students in the United States with a different perspective on Afghanistan than that developed in the media since 2001. This book can be used to build empathy for people from other cultures. It’s also fantastic for cross-curricular studies in history and social studies classes.

The Kite Runner shows the modern history of Afghanistan from the coup against the king Zahir Shah, to the Soviet-Afghan War, to the rise of the Taliban. Hosseini depicts these events and their effects on Afghan society in a clear manner, but a background lesson will provide students with a better understanding of this history. Teachers may also want to have a lesson on the differences between Sunni and Shia Muslims and the persecution of ethnic Hazaras.

The novel contains a number of literary devices for students to analyze, most notably an allusion to the Persian myth of Rostam and Sohrab. Teachers can provide a summary of the myth or pair a full translation with The Kite Runner so students can analyze parallels between the novel and the myth.

Below, you’ll find Prestwick House’s 8 simple goals for how to teach The Kite Runner.

1. Summarize The Kite Runner

Growing up in Kabul, Afghanistan, Amir is close friends with Hassan, his father’s Hazara servant. The two are like brothers until one day Amir betrays Hassan, and they grow apart. As Amir matures, civil unrest erupts in Afghanistan as the king is overthrown and the Russians invade. Amir and his father flee and immigrate to the United States, where Amir meets the woman who will become his wife. When he receives a phone call about Hassan’s son living in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, he returns to his homeland in hopes of redeeming himself.

Content Warning: The Kite Runner contains instances of profanity, violence, and rape.

2. Identify Objectives for Teaching The Kite Runner:

  • Describe the purpose and effect of the flashbacks throughout the story.
  • Explain the importance of names in the novel, giving relevant examples.
  • Trace Amir’s coming of age in the story, noting key points in his growth and development.
  • Explain the many types of prejudice in the novel, and show how they affect the characters.
  • Identify and analyze symbols in the novel, including kites, the pomegranate tree, the lamb, and Hassan’s cleft lip.
  • Analyze the significance of the novel within the context of Afghan history and politics.

3. Pinpoint Key Facts and Literary Elements

Key Facts

  • Publication Date: 2003
  • Length: 384 pages
  • Lexile® Measure: 840
  • Recommended Grade Band: 10–11
  • Boeke Prize 2004; New York Times Bestseller; Reading Group Book of the Year 2006, 2007

Literary Elements

  • Allusion
  • Epiphany
  • Flashback
  • Foreshadowing
  • Imagery
  • Symbolism

4. Understand Themes and Motifs

  • Guilt – The protagonist, Amir, struggles with the guilt he feels because he only hid and watched while his friend Hassan was violently raped.
  • Redemption – Amir is given a chance to redeem himself — “a way to be good again,” in the words of one of the book’s characters — and believes that he can heal himself through performing a good act.
  • Parent-Child Relationships – Amir craves his father’s love and affection, but his father provides these comforts more to Hassan. This has a profound emotional effect on Amir.

5. Explore Related Works

Theme of Guilt

Theme of Redemption

Theme of Parent-Child Relationships

6. Employ Films and Other External Resources

7. Consider What Your Students Will Love

  • The book’s universal themes — Hosseini has written a very accessible story, one that resonates regardless of the reader’s cultural background
  • The valuable look into Afghanistan’s past
  • The narrative arc of the book, which is a logical, symmetrical progression from shame and guilt to love and redemption

8. Anticipate What Your Students May Struggle With

  • The coincidental nature of the book’s resolution — some students may find that the book’s final sections contain too many unlikely coincidences and thus strain credulity.
  • The narrator, who some may read as an unsympathetic character.

9. Order The Kite Runner Resources from Prestwick House:

Resource Format
The Kite Runner Paperback Student Edition
The Kite Runner Teaching Unit Reproducible Downloadable 30-Book Set
The Kite Runner AP Teaching Unit Reproducible Downloadable 30-Book Set
The Kite Runner Activity Pack Reproducible Downloadable 30-Book Set
The Kite Runner Response Journal Reproducible 30-Book Set
The Kite Runner Multiple Critical Perspectives Reproducible Downloadable 30-Book Set
The Kite Runner Complete Teacher's Kit Reproducible Downloadable 30-Book Set