Literature and the library are obvious partners, but library lessons should be more than a simple read-aloud time. By presenting students with as much variety and choice in literature as possible, I can nurture their appreciation for reading and books. Multicultural literature provides powerful teaching opportunities in the classroom & library settings. When students have an opportunity to interact with and hear stories from many cultures, they may see themselves or a piece of their family history in a story and feel more at home in the school community. If the stories and cultures presented in literature are new to students, reading these texts broadens their understanding of local and global communities.
One book I used successfully this fall with three very different classes is Head, Body, Legs: A Story from Liberia.
I created and adapted a lesson for a Pre-Kindergarten, first grade, and developmentally delayed group of learners. All students benefitted from hearing a folk tale, and each class had a chance to retell and interact with the story after I had read it aloud. The story tells how the various parts of a human body come to find one another; the gradual assemblage of parts eventually working together to accomplish the goal of picking and eating fruit from a tree. I discussed the theme of the story with each class and emphasized the idea of working together to achieve a goal. We then modeled this sort of work with our post-reading learning activity.
The Pre-K and 1st grade classes enjoyed the silliness of the illustrations, and worked together to retell the story as I turned the pages after our first read through. I then introduced the character from the book, who I brought with me to class, and students generated words that I wrote down and had them stick to the character’s body as labels. This tied into the school’s Literacy Collaborative, with labeling being one skill for students to master, while reinforcing writing and reading.
Students in the developmentally delayed class I’ve taught this year are continuously working to acquire vocabulary for everyday activities. Reading this book and creating labels for our character reinforced students’ use of basic body words and encouraged the use of language when retelling the tale with the illustrations.