Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Balanced Thanksgiving Reading for Children

It was really hard for me last year when First Sprout learned about Thanksgiving at school. She came home from kindergarten talking about the pilgrims and Indians and how they were such good buddies that they sat down to a turkey dinner together. Seeing as how we were at a really progressive school (I thought), I was pretty shocked. My history-buff husband was angry. How could well-meaning people still be teaching the same inaccurate story that we learned as gradeschoolers?

I never confronted First Sprout's teacher about it because I was busy and tired, and oh, the teacher was my boss at the time. But I did decide that I would work hard to start putting together a better list of read alouds for Thanksgiving. I wanted to incorporate more of a Native American perspective (which was harder than I expected) and then supplement  with books that approach the season from a perspective of gratitude.

Without further ado, here is my short list of Balanced Thanksgiving Reading for Children:

1)  Squanto's Journey: The Story of the First Thanksgiving by Joseph Bruchac. This by far and away the BEST book I have found that teaches actual historical facts about the first Thanksgiving from the perspective of Native Americans. The story is told by Squanto of the Patuxet tribe, and it explains how he was sold into slavery in Spain and traveled to England with the help of monks. There he learned to speak the English language and committed himself to becoming a guide to broker peace between his people and the new settlers. The story is told in an honest way that children can handle. It ends with a message of respect for all people, which is definitely a lesson I want my children to learn.

2) Thanks for Thanksgiving by Julie Markes. This book doesn't have a lot going for it in the way of diversity, but I love the basic message of gratitude that it shares. It describes many of things that a family with three young children might be thankful for at this time of year using a cheerful verse. I love the overall message of thankfulness for family.

3) In November by Cynthia Rylant. I tend to love anything by Cynthia Rylant, and In November is no exception. It's not about Thanksgiving specifically, but the striking language and beautiful illustrations go a long away to evoke the wonder of season. It's a remarkably lovely book that is perfect for snuggling and sharing.

4) Giving Thanks: A Native American Good Morning Message by Chief Jake Swamp. This book is based on the Thanksgiving Address used to open government proceedings and official ceremonies for the sovereign tribes of the Six Nations-- Mohawk, Oneida, Cayuga, Onondaga, Seneca, and Tuscarora. It is a powerful message of gratitude for our natural world and all of the wonderful things that it provides for us. In addition to providing more Native American perspectives, it prompts important discussions about the environment and natural resources too.

5) Strega Nona's Harvest by Tomie dePaola. This is another book that's not strictly about Thanksgiving, but the themes of harvest and sharing the bounty of the season with others are certainly fitting. In this story, Big Anthony doesn't quite understand why Strega Nona has to have her garden planted a certain way, so he decides to take some extra seeds and an unused patch of land to try an experiment. He ends up with a great yield-- just not in the way he expected. I love the messages about curiosity, perseverance, and kindness that crop up in this story.

My list is still pretty short for now, but I am on the lookout for new books to add for next year. I know there are some decent books that share the First Thanksgiving story from the Pilgrim's perspective, but my sprouts seem to be getting that perspective from a lot of other places already. My goal with this list is to try finding balance with more mainstream messages about Thanksgiving (and no buckled hats). I also don't want to make our studies in November all about Native Americans, because I prefer to share those books throughout the year as they fit with other seasonal studies (e.g. The First Strawberries is a summer staple around here, and autumn wouldn't be the same without How Chipmunk Got His Stripes). Hopefully, my work in progress will give others some ideas on new ways to approach the Thanksgiving holiday with children.

What Thanksgiving books do you love to share with your families and students? I'd love to get more ideas to add to the list, so feel free to leaves some comments in the space below!

Happy Thanksgiving!

No comments:

Post a Comment