Windows into Our Lives – 10 multicultural books that will make an impact

I grew up along side other kids that looked like me, had families just like me, and lived and grew up in the same town as I did.  The classrooms I work in are not the classrooms I grew up learning in.  Students are setting across from kids that are completely the opposite from them; different home lives, different cultures, different race and ethnicities.  The students in the classrooms I work in change dramatically throughout the year due to transient populations; migrant workers, apartment deals, and family upheavals. I believe it is a true disservice to our students if they don’t get the opportunity to get to know one another…

(students in the classrooms must get the chance to have conversations about these differences BUT, more importantly, the similarities among all of us-) The best way I know how to do this is through reading.I have compiled a list of some of the most diverse, multicultural texts that I feel could impact a classroom in the most positive way.

  1. junePitman, Gayle. E. and Litten, Kristyna. (2015). This day in June.

Stonewall Book Award for Children’s and Young Adult Literature (2015)

I’m going to start off with a bang (one of the most controversial topics of our time)

Dancing, Jumping, Music Pumping” each two-page spread highlights a different element of the parade. From the motorcycles that start it off, to the costumed men flamboyantly dancing down the street illustrated by Kristyne Letten showcase the ‘different types of love.’

Her message is clear, we are all different by design, and we can all love differently. “Public school is for everyone, so we need to think about how we ensure that public school is for everyone.” (Jill, 2013). Through the illustrations and poetic words, the reader can tell that the LGBT community or culture thrives on acceptance. This book is a window into a world or a parade that students do not get to see or understanding. I also feel that this would be a great opportunity for students who are ‘in’ this world to have a mirror that represents happiness, acceptance, and fun.

The brilliance of her book comes at the end where she has explicitly written about the historical and cultural aspects of the LGBT community. Each two-page spread is briefly explained to help guide readers through a better understanding of this sexual orientation or gender identity community. It goes on to highlight and explain how to speak to your children about this subject. “MacGillivray (2000) reminds teachers that choosing not to teach LGBT issues and texts is not a stance of neutrality, but instead is a stance on heteronormativity.” (Thein, 2013). She has artfully chosen age groups and ideas on how to talk through the subject with your child in an age appropriate way.

Instructional Connection

The rhyme scheme and poem is engaging alone, but the vibrant illustrations are fun and will draw young readers in.

  • Focus on the poem itself. Analyze the vocabulary, rhyme scheme. Draw connections to the poem and the illustrations.
  • While reading the poem aloud, allow students to illustrate what they see in their minds eye. Allow them to illustrate the based only on the words.
  • Listen to music that Gayle mentions in the Reading Guide in the back part of the book. Allow students to match music to the different two-page spread. Explain why they would use that music to capture that moment in the parade.
  • Ask students if they have ever been to a parade. Have students write a poem in the same structure (rhyming couplets) to explain what they saw during that parade.
  • Watch a portion of the Macy’s Day Thanksgiving Parade at and have students write a comparison piece on the two parades.

i kn2.  Croza, Lauren., & James, Matt. (2013). I know here

Ezra Jack Keats Book Award for New Writer (2011), Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award (2011)

Doug lives in a trailer park community where his father works on the local dam. The dam was built to generate electricity for the small communities nearby. The dam is about finished, so they will be moving to Toronto, Canada in the summer.

Doug goes to school in a one building school house with nine other students all in different grades. With the news of Doug moving, Doug’s teacher decides to go on a field trip to allow students to draw what they see. Which will, hopefully, help him remember this community. Mrs. Hendrickson, his teacher says, ‘drawing will help you take us with you when you leave.” Throughout the book, Doug explains what he sees and what he knows about his small community town.

The story is filled with beautiful figurative language and sensory details that capture the setting of the main character’s internal conflict. Doug knows his town, community and natural environment very well. He talks about the sounds and smells of the howling wolves, the trees and sky.

It is in these moments that the reader realizing his agony and heartbreak over moving. “Stories reflect ourselves back to us and that’s really vital, but we also need stories that help us to learn and see other people’. (Jill,2013). This book allows the reader to understand the ‘new kid’ and how he/she is feeling when entering a new world, but also how they feel when they leave their familiar. This book can help all students empathize with new students.

There is a moment in the book that Doug wonders what Toronto looks like as he is standing in the forest of his familiar town. The illustrator took the time to do a two-page spread of where he is ‘What he knows’ and his imagined view of Toronto. This is the moment the reader truly understands how scared Doug really is.

The illustrations by Matt James match the vision and theme of the text because later in the book, the reader finds out that Doug is asked to illustrate what he sees. The illustrations are child-like in nature which helps the reader understand the main character’s understanding and point of view of his ‘known’ community. Matt matches Doug’s point of view, his vision through his illustrations.

The reader never gets to see Doug leave or arrive at his new destination, but I believe the author chose to leave us in the place that he knows for a reason. The reader empathizes with Doug, with his heartache and his need to feel familiar with his surroundings.

Instructional Connections

Having taught for ten years, I have experienced many transient students, migrant worker students, and immigrants. This book would engage all students because all students have experienced change and moving or a new school/classroom before.

  • Have students write about a time they went someplace unfamiliar.
  • Have students participate in the activity Mrs. Hendrickson, Doug’s teacher asks him to participate in.
  • Focus on the figurative language and sensory details. Have students’ complete graphic organizers while you read the text aloud.
  • Have students explain their familiar place using this book as their mentor text.

journey3.  Say, Allen., & Houghton Mifflin Company. (1993). Grandfather’s journey. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company.

Caldecott Medal recipient 1994

An autobiography of Allen Say and his Grandfather’s Journey to America and back to his homeland of Japan. Allen Say’s grandfather travels on the Pacific Ocean, across the world on trains and on foot. Until, he has a daughter of his own, he doesn’t realize how much he misses his old friendships from Japan, and he returns to memories that he never forgot. As his daughter grows up to marry and have a child of her own, Grandfather starts to miss his world in California. Allen only knowns his grandfather for a short time before. After his grandfather passes away, Allen travels to California where he finally ‘understands’ his grandfather- “Once I am in one country, I am homesick for the other.”

“When you leave your country, you leave for good and become a foreigner to your culture.” In Allen Say’s interview on Wetalearningmedia, Allen expresses his confusion over this. In Grandfather’s Journey, he tells a story about his grandfather who never felt ‘at home’ in either country; ‘once I am in one country, I am homesick for the other.” This universal theme speaks to all our refugees, children from other cultures, and immigrants. This short picture book tells a story that is heartache, love, and family that is very different from the ‘hegemonically represented in children’s narratives, textbooks, consumer culture and popular media as a period of innocence, play, spontaneity and vulnerability.” (Telling different tales, Screenivas, p. 316).

Right from the beginning, on pages 4 and 5 the main character is shown in Japanese clothing and in European clothing. This visual comparison shows the quick change that Allen Say’s grandfather had to take. He acclimated himself quickly, which could have made his urge to go back home to Japan even more vital. I have students who make such a quick transition like this as well. It is these students who try to immerse themselves into our culture that seem to have the hardest time transitioning. I believe that it is important for these students to keep ahold of their traditions and ‘culture’ as they discover their new world and environment. “The more he traveled, the more he longed to see new places, and never thought of returning home.’ (Grandfather’s Journey, page 13). This line does more than express the will and determination of a young man alone on his journey. I believe it shows his desire to take it all in, his acceptance of all that he has come across and need to experience more. I wish that the students I have in my classroom were immigrants because they wanted to see the world. Unfortunately, they are here as immigrant workers, refugees from religious persecution or here because their families are able to make more money. Because of these reasons, many children do not get the opportunity to travel and see this new world of theirs as a beautiful place but as stability and basic needs.

I loved how his grandfather expressed his desire to return to Japan after having his family. The traditions and culture he grew up knowing, he wanted for his own daughter. He wanted her to see the world his wife and him grew up seeing. Culture was obviously very important to him, even though the reader isn’t introduced to this until three quarters into the story. “But the village was not a place for a daughter from San Francisco. So my grandfather bought a house in a large city nearby.” (Grandfather’s Journey, page 22). These lines from the picture book showcase the difficulty his own daughter had at acclimating herself in the traditions of the Japanese Village people. I know this very well from watching our own students from the Congo acclimate themselves the first few years in an American school. The highly structured classroom makes it very difficult for these students to get used to. We, teachers, must remember to give these students time to experience and assimilate to our alien ways.

Teaching Connections

This would be a great book to use to engage students in the traditions of Japan; dress, symbol of the songbirds, and the war.

  • Show students a map of the United States and Japan. Have the students identify the path that Allen Say’s grandfather might have taken on the Pacific Ocean to California. Then follow the path he traveled once he got there by viewing the illustrations.
  • Research the Japanese traditions and culture that would have made it difficult for his daughter to acclimate herself in the village.
  • Teach students the social etiquettes that are the Japanese culture.
  • Study the symbols of the Japanese culture.
  • Study the illustrations to help identify items in the pictures, for example, mats, clothing, songbirds, tea kettle, shoes, the war.
  • Have students write about a time they were homesick.

red thread4.  Lin, Grace. (2007). The red thread: An adoption fairy tale. Morton Grove, IL: Albert Whitman & Co.

The story begins with a young girl asking her parents to tell the story. It is obvious this young girl is looks different from her mom and dad (maybe adopted?).

A king and queen in a faraway kingdom awake with a terrible, heartbreaking pain. A peddler hears of their heartache and brings them spectacles to see the red thread that pulls on their hearts. The king and queen travel a great distance, through snow, over an ocean into a new village to discover what is tugging at the red thread. The young baby girl in a crib holds the ends of the thread. Both the king and queen take the baby home to raise as their own.

“An invisible, unbreakable red thread connects all those who are destined to be together.”

The dedication of ‘This book is dedicated to all children adopted, the parents who loved them but could not keep them, and the parents who traveled far to find them.” (The Red Thread). This adoption fairy tale was obviously written from the point of view of the adopted child and family. It is heartbreaking to think that these children were not able to be kept by their Chinese families. It does help those who are adopted to understand the connections that these families had from birth. I also found it interesting that the adopted parents in this fairy tale were a king and queen. “Historically, caste superiority and spirituality are correlated.” (Telling different tales, page 324.). The peddler then moves on to another kingdom where a king and queen are also feeling that heartache. This presumes that those families with enough power and money can travel land and sea to adopt a child.

My mirrored experience here places a cynical view upon this fairy tale that, I know, is meant to explain a very happy time. My cousin is adopted from China, and her story of adoption is not that beautiful, but it did cost a lot of money, and my godmother did travel over land and sea and over many obstacles to get her.

“Yet when the thread led them to the shore of a vast sea, they almost despaired. But the thread tugged at them, so they bought a boat and began to row.” (The Red Thread, pg. 19). This turning point, shows the determination of the king and queen to go beyond their comfort zone to discover what was pulling at the red thread. Without knowing what was at the end of the thread, they were tenacious and pushed forward. This universal theme connects all of our immigrants and refugee families. They do not know what they are getting themselves into, but, what they do know, is that their current circumstance is worth the trouble.

Throughout the story the fairy tale is embedded in Chinese symbolism. The color red is prominent throughout all illustrations. The red color is known as a color of good fortune and joy. Many of the Chinese holidays, family gatherings and celebrations have a prominent color of red to offer good luck. The thread is a symbol of the king and queen’s destiny. No matter when or where, you and this person are connected through destiny. At one point, Grace Lin says, ‘faces as pale as the moon.” At this point in the story, the king and queen are steps away from meeting their new child, and the author compares the travelers to the moon which shows their strength and wholeness. Right before the king and queen meet their new child, the travelers cross the ocean which is a symbol of purification and cleansing. This fairy tale doesn’t just tell a lovely story of adoption; it captures the culture of the Chinese people in a subtle way that illustrates the importance of this story.

Knowing that fairy tales were once oral stories passed from generation to generation to explain to adults their culture and heritage, this fairy tale fits the criteria. I can see how this story helps young, adopted children look at their family as dedicated. I can see how this story can help those feeling as if they were left by a birth mother or father, but, instead, as if it were destiny that they have this new life.

Instructional Connections

This is a very specific fairy tale that tells a specific story with a universal theme of love and family. I think most students would find this story engaging.

  • Retell and analyze the plot of this story. Mimic the plot by creating your own family story. How did your family come together?
  • What makes this a fairy tale? Identify the elements that make this a fairy tale.
  • Find the Chinese symbolism in the story and research the meanings.
  • Create an Alphabox word bank, have students search for new vocabulary to place in each box.
  • Use the text to help identify the different types of figurative language. Sketch the literal and figurative meanings of the different figurative language used throughout the story. For example, ‘faces as pale as the moon’.

turtle5. Nye, N. S., Peterschmidt, B., & Greenwillow Books. (2014). The turtle of Oman: A novel.

Power house museum. (2012, May 3).

  • Arab American Book Award Winner 2015

Aref and his family are moving to Michigan from Muscat, Oman for three years while his parents earn their doctorates. Aref, a thirteen-year-old boy, is having a very difficult time packing and saying goodbye. He does not want to leave his house, leave Oman, his turtles, and his rock collection. To get some help, Aref’s mother calls on his grandfather, Sidi to help. Sidi and Aref travel the country packing in as many memories and adventures as possible in one week before he says good bye for three years.

“Headlines are not representative of the people who live there.” (Naomi Shihab Nye interview). I have never heard of Muscat, Oman, but the headlines in this country are very focused on the negative of the radicals of this religion. It is nice that Shihab Nye focuses more on the boy’s perspective; his desire to stay where he knows and loves. This story could be any little boy moving. Nye focuses on his emotions of saying good bye to his friends and locations. This is not a book about religion, this is a book about a young boy becoming brave enough to say goodbye for a little while. I know of a lot of students that have moved; moved schools, moved towns, moved states, moved countries. This is a window into an experience that most of the students in my classroom can connect.

There are so many lessons to be learned from this book. For example, on page 10, Sidi, Aref’s grandfather says, “Look at something ahead of you in the distance, then look at it when you get right up next to it, then turn around and look at it again when it is behind you. Sidi said it was important to get all the different views.” I love that his grandfather is teaching him that one person can have so many perspectives and that one object can look different through different lenses. This is a lesson that many of our students (and adults) need to learn and remember. In Nye’s interview she mentions this very similar theme, ‘Whose perspective isn’t being reported?” She wants to capture these different perspectives through her writing.

Throughout the book, Sidi and Aref take on many adventures that are very specific to the landscape of Muscat, Oman from sandstorms, camels, beaches, and deserts. These different settings put the reader into another world. “Some people act as if a desert is dead, but it’s very alive and constantly shifting and changing.” This personification of the desert is just one example of Nye’s beautify description of the setting. She makes a point to use the environment as another character in the book. One of the things that Aref is having a difficult time saying goodbye is because he is leaving his world to enter an unfamiliar place. The description of the very dynamically different landscapes gives the reader the ability to truly understand Aref’s terror of leaving his familiar.

“Dear Aref, don’t forget everything you love about your country is buried safely in the sand at the beach.” (page 298). As Aref finishes his packing, he realizes that he can still love his country of Muscat, but be accepting and understanding of the new that Michigan will give him. There is a notice in change of character at the end of the story as Aref walks with dignity into the kitchen at the end of the story. This change in character allows the reader to feel as if he is ready to accept this idea of moving.

Instructional Connections

This would be a great read aloud for all students. To keep them engaged…

  • Have students write about a time they moved or packed for a long weekend.
  • Collect stones over a long weekend and show and tell the stones the way Aref would.
  • Focus on the visual description of the different setting throughout the book. Have the students sketch what they visualize in their minds eye while the teacher read alouds the descriptions.
  • Research some of the facts that Aref lists throughout the book.
  • Create a week timeline of the places Sidi takes Aref.
  • Perspective: Try and create the different perspectives of one object like Sidi suggests on page 108.

yeh shen6.  Louie, Ai.-Ling, & Young, Ed. (1982). Yeh-Shen: A Cinderella story from China. New York: Philomel Books.

During the dim past of southern China, Yeh-Shen was born to a Chef. When her mother past during childbirth, her father, with two wives, died of heartache. Yeh-Shen became an orphan and adopted by her stepmother who was jealous of her beauty. Yeh-Shen was given the most difficult chores and was only awarded enough food to survive. She shared her food with her only friend, The Fish. When her stepmother found out about this fish, she was furious that Yeh-Shen would keep this secret. To get even with her, she took a dagger and killed The Fish. An old man came to Yeh-Shen to explain the power of his bones. “Kneel at the ashes of your fish and ask for what your heart desires, but do not waste it.” One day, Yeh-Shen asked the fish bones if she could dress for the festival; a festival where she would choose a husband and leave her evil stepmother. The wish was granted. During the festival, she was noticed by her stepsister and rushed home. In the meantime, dropping one of her golden slippers. The slipper was given to the king, where he placed it in a pavilion for girls to try on. One night, Yeh-Shen tiptoed to the pavilion and placed the golden slipper onto her tiny foot. Her rags turned into her beautiful azure gown, and the king married her.

This story was told during the T’ang Dynasty, about 1,000 years before the oldest European version. On page 152 of the journal Ideal Literature by Sekeres, “The power of narrative to shape readers’ understanding of something as important as religious faith is an accepted tenet in criticism of children’s literature.” (Hollindale, 1992). I am not saying that Yeh-Shen is a story of religion, but I believe it demonstrates a time and culture that matches the author’s culture and beliefs. There are so many cultural aspects to this story. For example, Yeh-Shen’s best friend is a fish which represents hope of prosperity, the bones are the spirit of the fish, golden slippers are a symbol of royalty, the old man represents the belief in them being wise and respected.

In Screenivas’ journal, Telling Different Tales, she says, “Children in their stories share the responsibilities and pressures of the adult world.” It is true in this Cinderella tale as well. As Yeh-Shen is doing the chores and being the protector of the ‘home’ or fruit tree instead of the male or father of the house. She goes on and says, “Multiculturalism is grounded in politics of recognition; it pushes for the inclusion and acceptance of the subjugated culture’s difference.” In Yeh-Shen, she is desperate to be a part of the festival where she will meet and choose her husband. That is a cultural aspect deep into the culture of China and only mentioned in our European fairy tales.

This story would be difficult for students to connect to, but the cultural aspects that are mentioned throughout the story are wonderful ways to open up a window into a time and culture that is distant to most. I love that it is so similar to our Cinderella story, but the cultural differences make them vastly different.

Throughout the fairy tale there are many themes mentioned throughout that could help our students stronger in character. The wise old man tells Yeh-Shen, “don’t dwell on the past.” What a wonderful message to help our students persevere through the hard times. Even though Yeh-Shen is treated so poorly and given very little food, she shares with her only friend, The Fish. This message of giving and sharing even when you are down and out, is a theme that never gets old. Yeh-Shen’s determination to do what is right, to be kind, and helpful even when she is not treated with respect herself teaches all kids to treat others the way you want to be treated even when others don’t do the same. We are living in a time when these lessons are taught primarily at school. This book does a beautiful job of mixing a cultural tale with some great life lessons.

Instructional Connections

  • As a Cinderella tale, students could read many different tales from other cultures and compare them. Research the cultural differences.
  • Research the T’ang Dynasty and make cultural connections between the time of this story and the Dynasty.
  • Research the different festivals that occur in China.
  • Change the setting and characters of Cinderella to tell their own story with similar plot.
  • Watch the CBS story of Yeh-Shen and compare the movie to the book

tomas7. Mora, Pat., & Colón, Raul. (1997). Tomás and the library lady. New York: Knopf.

  • Awards 1997 Américas Award for Children’s and  Young Adult Literature Commended Title 1997 Notable Books for Children, Smithsonian 1998 Tomás Rivera Mexican American Children’s Book Award 1998 Teachers’ Choices Award from the International Reading Association 1998 Skipping Stones Multicultural Book Award 1999-2000 Texas Bluebonnet Master List Title 1999-2000 Nebraska Golden Sower Nominee


Tomas and his family are migrant workers that travel between Iowa and Texas according to the harvest and season. Papa Grande, Tomas’ grandfather, is a storyteller. One that has told all of his stories, which Tomas knows very well. This inspires him to check out the library in the little Iowa town.

            While at the library, Tomas discovers worlds he was once curious about; worlds with dinosaurs, jungles filled with scary tigers. Tomas also discovers a friendship with the librarian. She provides him with the gift of his new adventures, and Tomas teaches her Spanish. Even though the family must travel back to Texas, his love of books, the library and the library lady will never be forgotten.

This book is a window into a world that not many people can relate; migrant workers. The exposition hints at the hardships that migrate workers must go through, “tired old car,’ ‘Tomas was tired too,’ and “hot and tired’ but the focus of the book is not on how difficult this is for families or the child. The real focus is on the child’s desire to learn, to read, to be transformed into another world. Perhaps, because his actual life is so difficult and tiring this is Tomas’ way of escaping.

Every child can see themselves in Tomas when he enters the library because Pat Mora does an amazing job of describing this new setting vividly for all to imagine. The moment when Tomas gets transported into these other worlds, is also something that students can relate to. Pat Mora shows the reader that it is within books that anyone can travel or go anywhere. I believe that is a universal theme across all cultures.

Raul Colon’s illustrations show Tomas and the librarian with complete clarity. The other characters aren’t at detailed as meticulously as the main protagonists. The paintings look as if they were done, and Colons went back in with tools to create movement and texture within each picture. The illustrations seem like a dream that Tomas is experiencing and not reality.

Instructional Connections

This picture book is such a literary, fluid story. I would use this to encourage students to write, to imitate, and as a model of vivid writing. There are many engaging activities that could help connect our students to this culture and life experience that Tomas has.

  • Discover the route that Tomas and his family might have taken from Iowa to Texas. How far is it? How long would the drive take? When is the corn harvest in Iowa? When is the harvest in Texas?
  • Since the book is inspired by the real life story of Tomas Rivera, have the students write a biography about his life. Create a timeline of his life?
  • Tomas speaks Spanish throughout the book. Have the students collect all the Spanish words and create vocabulary notecards/flashcards to help them understand the Spanish. Play games or create a Frayer model vocabulary graphic organizer with the new words. Have students learn and teach each other different Spanish words that are not in the text like Tomas did for his library lady.
  • The story is filled with beautiful literary adjectives and adverbs. Have the students go in and collect all of these to create a Alphabox Word Bank. Have the students create a story about their family using these adjectives from the book.
  • Have the students practice visualizing text. Read portions of this book aloud while students close their eyes. When they open them, have students sketch what they saw, label it and share it using the adjectives from the text.

a boy8. Bruchac, Joseph., & Baviera, Rocco. (1998). A boy called Slow: The true story of Sitting Bull

Kid’s Choice Award (Buffalo Alliance for Education) 2006 ALA Notable Children’s Book 1995 National Education Association’s Native American Booklist 2010 Mountains and Plains Independent Booksellers Association Regional Book Award 1996

In the winter of 1831, “Slon-he” was born to Returns Again, a Lakota Souix warrior. Slow was not the biggest or tallest Lakota in the village, but his perseverance and desire to be like his father pushed him to be great.

            When Slow was fourteen, the Lakota people set out to raid the Crow people. It is during this raid that Slow earns his adult name of Sitting Bull.   His bravery and leadership was comparative to his respected father. “Slon-he” earned his new name and proved, throughout his adult life, to be one of the greatest Lakota warriors.

A Boy Called Slow captures the essence that is the Native American culture. Like Joseph Bruchac says in his interview, “storytelling is a ‘window into the culture that connects to who you are, where you live and to the rest of creation.” The reader can hear the beautiful respect for life, the valued character traits of bravery and wisdom, and the importance of ‘family’ and ‘tribe’. ‘It was as if the two of them [horse and Slow] were one.” “Slow longed to have a name like his uncle Four Horns, or like the strong name his father had earned.” These are just two examples of the importance and storytelling qualities that Bruchac is explaining.

Throughout the story, Bruchac focuses on the connection between Native Americans, in particular the Lakota Souix, to nature. I believe this is a window into a world that many of our students’ desire and do not fully understand. Bruchac takes many pages to describe the importance of ‘Wakan-Tankan’ and how he gave them dogs, and how The Creator provided them with the ‘Spirit Dog’ or the horse. Sherman Alexie mentions in his interview about his people being suspicious of the White Man. As Slow’s uncle, Four Horns, tells the story of the ‘Spirit Dog’ he does not tell a tale of the White Man bringing the horses. This moment spoke to the mistrust of the white man and the value of storytelling to these people.

Alexie also speaks about the goals of his people; basketball player, Pow Wower or tribal leader. It is evident that tribe and bravery are very important characteristics to the Lakota people. I believe that many students can relate to the desire to win over their father or mother. Throughout this story, the reader is cheering on Slow as he desperately tries to earn a Stronger Name by showing his father that he is worthy of it. The universal theme of bravery is one that all students can connect to. It is how Sitting Bull shows his bravery; selflessly and with pride for his tribe, that gives the reader a window into a different culture.

Instructional Connections

Since this is a true story of Sitting Bull’s childhood, I believe students will be very engaged if they were asked to…

  • Study the Lakota people by reading nonfiction texts or researching on the internet.
  • Study Sitting Bull and creating a timeline of the major events in his life.
  • Study the Sioux and North Dakota
  • Listening to Native American music and drawing images or illustrations like Baviera focused on the nature around the people.
  • Read more of Bruchac’s stories to try and find commonalities in his storytelling.
  • Have students memorize and story tell something they have read previously.
  • Involve parents in a homework assignment- “What childhood name would be appropriate for your child based on the criteria from the Lakota people?” Have the students come back to school with a sketch that explains their ‘childhood name’ and tell the story behind it.
  • Like uncle Four Horns’ story about the ‘Spirit Dog’ have the students explain why we have different items found in nature.

tamales9. Soto, Gary., & Martinez, Ed. (1992). Too many tamales. New York: Putnam

It is Christmas Eve, and Mama asks Maria to help her make the traditional tamales for the Christmas Eve meal. While preparing the tamales, Maria notices her mother’s beautiful ring and decides to try it on. Together, Mama and Maria make twenty-four delicious tamales.

            When her family arrives, Maria takes her cousins upstairs to her room to hangout. While cutting out pictures of toys from the newspaper, Maria notices a beautiful necklace which reminds her of the beautiful ring of her mother’s. ‘Oh, No!” She runs down the stairs toward the kitchen.

            As the four cousins finish eating the last of the twenty-four tamales, their tummies are bulging and no luck finding the ring. Maria decides that it is time for her to confess to her mother. To her surprise, Mama’s ring is sitting on her finger. Mama does not get upset, but, instead, with laughter and a cheerful tone, the family comes together to prepare the second batch of tamales.

This story mirrors all students’/children experiences with doing something they are ashamed of and trying to hide it. It shows that children make mistakes, but it is how they choose to resolve the problem that makes them strong in character. “All literature is multicultural, showing the complexities of intercultural relations as well as cultural hybridity; other social memberships work together with race. Multiple perspectives, cultural similarities and differences broaden our understanding of multiculturalism. (p. 86.) This shows that all students of all backgrounds make mistakes, but it is how one handles the situation that defines us; not our race or culture.

Maria learns a very valuable lesson in this story. She knew that playing with her mother’s ring was not okay, but the urge got the best of her. After discovering that the ring was missing, she should have told her mother right away. Instead, she thought she would try and solve her problem on her own causing more trouble and pain for others. The universal theme, what goes around comes around or when you are in trouble, seek help connects all students to this book. It is important that all of our students, within any race or background, are able to find connections to each other.

Instructional Connections

This cheerful story is centered around a Latino tradition of preparing tamales for the holiday. I believe all students would find this story engaging.

  • Prepare tamales in class. Write a procedural paper and/or recipe for making tamales.
  • Complete a five senses activity that focuses on the smells, touch, taste, look, and sounds that are described in the book- Bring tamales to class and allow students to complete a five senses graphic organizer.
  • Talk about family traditions, (holiday) foods etc… Have students write about their traditions or holiday foods. Allow students to bring these foods to a classroom potluck. (Box)
  • Complete a character analysis on Maria with the focus on the lesson she learned from the story.
  • Write a story about a time you helped in the kitchen.
  • Discuss a better way of solving the problem instead of eating all twenty-four tamales. Role play the conversation with students.
  • Write about a time you were ashamed of something and how difficult it was to tell you parents.

roja10. Elya, Susan. M., & Guevara, Susan. (n.d.). Little roja riding hood. G.P. Putnam’s Sons, a Penguin Group

Little Roja Riding Hood is sent into el bosque to deliver sopa to her sick abuelita while her mom watches telenovelas. While traveling through el bosque, she is stopped by a tricky lobo who convinces her to stop and pick flowers for her abuelita.


            Little Roja Riding Hood stops to pick the flowers, and in doing so, takes off her roja cape. The lobo snatches the cape and heads toward abuelitas house. Little Roja Riding Hood jumps on her ATV and heads to abuelita’s house. Abuelita and Little Roja Riding Hood get sweet revenge in a very caliente way.

The story of Little Red Riding Hood and Little Roja Riding Hood are very similar, but the differences between the two are based on very particular cultural differences. “Interlingual”, incorporating Spanish words and phrases within the English text.” (p. 144) This book does a masterful job of retelling this story through a blend of Spanish and English text.

This modern spin on the traditional tale allows all students from all backgrounds to connect to this story. The themes of bravery and family show a mirror into every students’ world. I believe that this tale, told in all of its different ways allows every student to feel a connection with one another. ‘An identity of belonging matters whether one is two years old or an adolescent of color needing access to dominant discourses in order to speak and write forms of English.” (Delpit, 1988). Ms. Tully’s classroom in Teaching Latina/o Children’s Literature in Multicultural Contexts by Franquiz and Martinez-Roldan, pg. 110 identity matters. This fairy tale gives all students the ability to connect their family cultures.

Instructional Connections

Categories Teaching

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