A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park

A Long Walk to Water is a New York Times bestseller based on the true story of Salva Dut, a refugee from Sudan, and his incredible journey to find his family and escape the war. Beginning in 1985, the story follows Salva over many years of challenges, obstacles and growth.

Simultaneously, readers meet Nya, a young girl also living in Sudan, but in the year 2008. Nya walks for hours a day to retrieve dirty water for her family, because that is all that they have. The two children are from very different times, but experience a number of similarities and are linked in an incredible way.

In the lesson plans for A Long Walk to Water students can explore setting, character analysis, literary conflict and more!

Student Activities for A Long Walk to Water

A Long Walk to Water Essential Questions

  1. What challenges did Nya and Salva face and how did they overcome these challenges?
  2. What are some similarities between Nya and Salva? What are some differences between the two individuals?
  3. What are some of the important themes in this novel?
  4. How did Salva's journey change him?
  5. What was life like for Salva at the two different refugee camps?
  6. How were Salva's village and Nya's village similar? How were they different?

Short Summary of A Long Walk to Water


The story begins with eleven year old Salva sitting in school one day when gunshots suddenly ring out. The year is 1985 in southern Sudan, and the Sudanese Civil War is all around them. Everyone is urged to run, head toward the bush and get as far away from home as possible, and Salva flees the area. Separated from his family, Salva is afraid and alone, only recognizing some people from his village. After hours of walking, the group that Salva joins settles into a barn for the night. When he wakes the next day, Salva finds that he has been left behind. Salva meets up with some members of his tribe, the Dinka tribe, and finds his uncle, Jewiir. In addition, Salva makes a dear friend in a boy named Marial. Things seem to be getting better for Salva as they travel towards Ethiopia, but he worries that he may never have a chance to search for his family if he continues traveling so far away.

Salva stays with the group, and they travel together for about a month. Tragedy strikes when Marial gets killed and eaten during a lion attack while he is asleep. Fear and grief overcome Salva, but his uncle urges him and tells Salva to continue on and not give up. After making their own canoes and crossing the Nile River, the group is faced with the grueling task of crossing the Akobo Desert. They come across others who are near death or already dead, and water is extremely limited. On the third day of their trek across the desert, a group of armed men steal all of their supplies and brutally kill uncle Jewiir. As devastated and defeated as Salva feels, he manages to forge on, knowing his uncle and dear friend would want him to survive. Eventually Salva and the others make it to a refugee camp in Ethiopia, where there were thousands upon thousands of people, most of whom were boys and young men. Salva had a glimmer of hope that he would find his family, but as the years went by, he knew how very alone he was.

After six long years at the camp, Salva was now seventeen years old, and news of the camp closing caused fear among him and the people. One rainy morning, armed soldiers from the Ethiopian government arrived at the camp and forced the people out. Guns fired, people stampeded, shouting and crying as the soldiers continued to drive them towards the crocodile infested Gilo River, which was along the border of Ethiopia and Sudan. Salva stood in fear as he saw men being pulled under by crocodiles in front of him, while gunshots rang out behind him; there was nothing to do but plunge in. After what seemed like a lifetime of swimming, Salva persevered and came out on the other side, where more walking would await him.

Not knowing what would happen when he arrived, Salva starts walking towards Kenya, and soon he had about 1,500 boys following him. He became the leader of this group, organizing and giving everyone jobs to do; he encouraged them and gave them hope. Salva leads the group much like his uncle led him. A year and a half later, most of the boys arrived at Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya. After two years of misery and what felt like prison, Salva left the camp and walked even more until he arrived at Ifo Refugee Camp, where things were no better. During his time at Ifo, Salva learned to read from one of the aid workers. He was happy about this, but was losing hope that he would ever find his family and be free.

That all changed when Salva was chosen to go to America, and he was to travel with eight other boys; they became known in America as the Lost Boys. After much preparation, Salva was amazed as he rode on planes, drank soda, and traveled from Kenya to Germany, and then to New York City. He would take one last small plane to Rochester, where his American family would be waiting to help him start his new life. Salva attends college, majors in business, and eventually hears of his father’s whereabouts at a clinic in Sudan. Salva also learns that his mother, sisters, and brother Ring are still alive, but it is too dangerous to visit his old village. After visiting his father and seeing how ill he is from years of drinking dirty and contaminated water, Salva is inspired to come up with a plan to provide clean water for the people of Sudan. After years of planning, fundraising, and public speaking, Salva Dut’s nonprofit organization, Water for South Sudan, was finally a reality.


Nya is eleven years old and lives with her family in Southern Sudan, and her story takes place between 2008 and 2009. Everyday, Nya spends hours upon hours walking, fetching water for her family from the nearest pond; even though the water is not clean, it is all that they have. She carries heavy buckets, endures thorns, heat, and exhaustion, all without complaining to bring water to her family; everyone in the family has a role to play, and this is hers.

One day, mysterious men arrived and met with Nya's uncle, brother, and other men of the village. They spoke for hours and looked around the land near the pond. Nya was confused. The next day, people began clearing the land, in hopes that fresh water would be found and wells could be built. Nya and her brother were skeptical, but after a long time of drilling wells and hard work, clean, fresh water was available to the village people. Nya delights in the fact that she will no longer have to walk for so long in order to bring water that makes her family sick, and is even happier when she learns that a schoolhouse is to be built in the village, where she will be able to learn to read and write. Perhaps the most wonderful part of it all, is that this was all made possible by a member of the rival tribe, a young man named Salva Dut.

This is a truly inspiring true story about a young boy who experienced incredible challenges, setbacks, loss, and pain, but never gave up. Instead, he chose to devote his life to his nonprofit organization that drills wells, Water for South Sudan, which has drilled over 250 wells, providing fresh water to hundreds of thousands of Sudanese people. Readers of all ages, from all over the world will be in awe of Salva’s perseverance, courage, and resilience.

Ideas for Post-Reading Activities

Storyboard That is an excellent tool for students to create fun and engaging projects as a culminating activity after finishing a novel. In addition to our premade activities, here are some ideas that teachers can customize and assign to students to spark creativity in individual students, pairs, or small groups for a final project. /p>

  1. For Groups: Choose a scene from the story and write a short play to reenact to the class. Use the traditional storyboard layout to plan out your scenes. You can add text to your storyboards, or simply use the cells to visualize each scene of your play.

  2. Using one of Storyboard That’s board game templates, create a game based on the book for your classmates to play!

  3. Create a book jacket of the novel using one of Storyboard That’s book jacket templates. Use Storyboard That art to create the cover, and write a summary of the story on the back, just like real books have!

  4. Using one of Storyboard That’s social media templates as a starting point, create a social media page for one or more of the characters in the novel. Be sure to think how the character thinks while creating this page.

  5. Create a scrapbook page made by one of the characters in the novel. Storyboard That has lots of premade templates that you can use as is, or change to fit your character’s personality! Check out our scrapbook templates today!

Want more?

Choose from a suggestion below that best fits your literacy block schedule!

  • List facts about A Long Walk to Water.
  • Write their own summary of A Long Walk to Water.
  • Make a biography poster of Salva from A Long Walk to Water.
  • Illustrate and describe the A Long Walk to Water setting.
  • Write an A Long Walk to Water analysis.
  • Create A Long Walk to Water drawings or take A Long Walk to Water pictures of places that look like the setting.

Buy A Long Walk to Water on Amazon

How to Analyze and Compare the Dual Narratives in "A Long Walk to Water."


Introduce the Dual Narratives

Explain to students that "A Long Walk to Water" contains dual narratives, following the stories of Nya and Salva in different time periods and settings. Discuss the purpose of using dual narratives in storytelling and how it enhances the readers' understanding of the themes and experiences in the novel.


Analyze the Perspectives

Guide students in analyzing the perspectives of Nya and Salva. Discuss their distinct experiences, challenges, and motivations. Encourage students to examine how their narratives intersect and relate to one another, as well as how they differ based on their contexts.


Identify Themes and Motifs

Facilitate discussions on the themes and motifs that emerge from the dual narratives. Prompt students to identify common themes such as resilience, survival, the importance of water, and the power of hope. Encourage them to analyze how these themes are portrayed through Nya and Salva's stories.


Compare and Contrast

Guide students in comparing and contrasting the experiences, emotions, and character development of Nya and Salva. Help them identify similarities and differences in their journeys, including the challenges they face, the support systems they encounter, and their personal growth. Use graphic organizers or Venn diagrams to facilitate visual comparisons.


Analyze the Author's Craft

Engage students in analyzing the author's craft in portraying the dual narratives. Discuss how Linda Sue Park uses language, imagery, and pacing to differentiate between Nya and Salva's stories. Prompt students to examine the impact of these narrative choices on their understanding of the characters and themes.


Synthesize Insights

Encourage students to synthesize their analysis and insights from the dual narratives. Facilitate discussions or assign written reflections where students can articulate their understanding of the characters, themes, and the overall message of the novel. Encourage them to draw connections between the narratives and explore the significance of their intersection.

Frequently Asked Questions about A Long Walk to Water

When does A Long Walk to Water take place?

A Long Walk to Water takes place during two different times. Salva’s story takes place in 1985, and Nya’s story takes place in 2008.

How old is Nya in A Long Walk to Water?

Both Nya and Salva are eleven years old in A Long Walk to Water.

What is the setting of A Long Walk to Water?

A Long Walk to Water takes place in Southern Sudan. The two stories are over 30 years apart, so there are some things that have changed about Southern Sudan, and some things that have not.

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