We got started this week with our first unit in our US History studies — Native Americans and Explorers. Our “book basket” (it’s really one of those stacking cubes) is overflowing with titles. Once I got started requesting books, I really went a little bit overboard!
I can’t remember if I found Little Runner of the Longhouse on one of the book lists that I looked at, or if I just requested it after one of those “one thing leads to the next” late night library catalog browsing binges. 😉
I feel like most of the books we’ve brought home from the library about Native Americans are fairly culturally sensitive. This one, maybe not so much (especially if the two “one star” reviews on amazon are to be believed). I want to generally make sure I’m presenting honoring, accurate views of Native Americans to my kids. But this book is cute, regardless. I’m hoping that the kids understand the difference between a fictional book like this and the books from the non-fiction section of the library.
In any case, this easy-reader book appealed to all the kids. Little Runner is a young boy who wants to participate in his (not-identified-in-the-story) tribe’s New Year traditions, but his mother tells him he is not old enough. The “big boys” dress up and “steal” things from other members of the tribe. Little Runner wants to “steal” something he can use to trade for all the maple sugar he can eat. I’m sure all the kids can relate! He cleverly thinks he can “steal” Little Brother and hold him for ransom, suggesting to his mother all kinds of things she might give Little Runner to buy back his younger brother.
Miss M chose this book to read from the book basket, and of course it only took her a few minutes to finish it. Mr K asked me to read the book to him (Mr. E was at Grandma’s house during this first reading). Then today Mr E tried reading some of it aloud to me. He made it through about four pages before handing the book over to me to finish it — it was just a bit over his patience and reading level at this point.
After listening to the book today, the boys, completely on their own, decided to make masks that were loosely inspired by the masks they saw in the book. All I had to do was cut the small mouth holes and tie on the elastic strings. And not to be outdone, Miss M had to make one too once she saw the boys’ masks (she’s holding a basket because she is the “basket lady” in the book):
After checking into it just a bit (and this was before I read the amazon reviews), I discovered that Little Runner of the Longhouse is loosely based on Iroquois traditions. I wasn’t clued in though while reading the book that the masks are sacred objects. I had been hoping not to fall into the trap of too many stereotype-promoting activities in our studies of Native Americans, but it appears we were both stereotypical and a bit sacrilegious today. Whoops! The kids had fun reenacting the story though, and this just goes to prove that I never need to bother with spending money on a curriculum that plans out activities for my kids — they are going to find them to do whether I am involved or not. 😉
I’m linking up with Read-Aloud Thursday @ Hope is the Word!
This is wonderful, Kirsten! I am one who doesn’t worry so much about adhering strictly to only non-PC titles; I figure if we treat people as individual human beings, my kids will get it regardless of the stereotypes. I love your last sentence–that’s narration in its purest form! 🙂