Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Cultural Characters: Or Why My Color Doesn't Wash Off - Book & Instruction Suggestions

Collection of Cultural Characters based on picture books.


A former college student of mine working in a "ritzy daycare in midtown" recently wrote to me asking for some book suggestions and lesson ideas she might use with  preschoolers in order to celebrate (and perhaps better understand) racial diversity.  She wrote: "to give you an idea of the mindset of the children, one asked me if I painted myself brown every morning and why doesn't it come off when I wash my hands."

In addition to privileged youngsters who often are represented in the stories featured in classrooms, the inclusion of high quality multicultural books and the use of characters from those books can provide important opportunities for all children to come to know self and other.  One only has to think of visual artist, Daryl Wells who recounts what she needed to do no in order to find herself in the books in school. Wells (Rohmer, 1997) writes: “When I was growing up, I didn’t understand why the crayon labeled ‘flesh’ in my crayon box wasn’t the color of my skin. As a way of proving that my color was also beautiful and real, I went through all my favorite storybooks and colored in the characters with brown crayon. In this way I was able to relate to them as if they really were a part of my world.”

In thinking about the challenges my former student faces in helping privileged children expand their understanding of the world, I thought of the idea of cultural characters. It is an instructional technique I routinely used in early primary grade classes and directly taught preservice teachers.

What is Cultural Characters?

Cultural characters is a book extension literacy practice based on Janice J. Beaty's and Linda Pratt's (2006) Early Literacy in Preschool & Kindergarten:A Multicultural Perspective (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson). Teachers select a collection of global multicultural children's literature for read aloud and then extend the literature experience through different engagements focusing on the characters from the texts.  In creating cultural characters I scan images of the characters from the books and then use these images in centers.  I may make (or have children make) stick puppets (using self-adhesive craft sticks) and adhere fasteners in order for children to be able to use the images in a felt story.   Additionally, students "recreate" the characters through their own visual, musical, and movement art.

Cultural characters are characters taken from high quality global multicultural children's picture books that feature cultural characters that young children can identify with and interact with by:
  • Drawing/painting pictures of the characters and interpretations of the characters
  • Telling their own stories about the characters ( using book images and student created images made into stick puppets)
  • Building block structures/homes for the characters 
  • Pretending to be the characters 
  • Making make-believe meals for the characters 
  • Making costumes for the characters 
  • Rereading the books featuring the characters 
  • Painting scenes for the characters 
  • Writing, dancing, singing, rapping about the characters 
  • Using iPods to make and record sound effects related to the characters 

Cultural character, Danilito, from When The World Was New
D.H. Figueredo's When this World Was New, tells the moving story of Danilito who has come from the Caribbean to the New York City area. Scared at being new, the child awakes the next day to a snow field landscape and sets out with his Papa to explore their new home. Using an image created by the illustrator Enrique Sanchez or a student-created one, students could retell the story, extend the story (what next adventure might Danilito experience)or interrupt the story (blow out a section of the story not told). The physical prop would help students to create stories.

The work with cultural characters across a school year allows for students to come to know themselves through the development of characters and character situations, as well as come to better understand characters who are different from themselves.

To help you get started with cultural characters in the preschool and early primary grades I have compiled a chart that lists the name, gender, culture, title of book and author, and have suggested some possible activities and potential learning center locations for each character. 


Examples of Cultural Characters from Children's Literature
Compiled by Mary Ann Reilly



Name (Gender)
Culture
Title of Book
Author
Possible Activity
Learning Center
African American  (M)
African American
Summer Sun Risin
Nikola-Lisa, W.
Farm chores
Dramatic Play Center
unnamed narrator (M)
African American
Yesterday I Had the Blues
Frame, Jeron Ashford
Metaphor Making
Art center (paint)
Unnamed boy
African American

Yo! Yes!
Raschka, Chris
Perform Text
Dramatic Play Center
Cassie (F)
African American
Tar Beach
Ringgold, Faith
Conversation
Block Center
Clover (F),

African American
The Other Side
Woodson, Jacqueline
Create jump rope rhymes
Writing center/recording center
Rashaad (M)
African-American
The Barber’s Cutting Edge
Hest, Amy
Harvesting Words from the Room
Writing Center
George (M)
African-American
Mr. George Baker
Hest, Amy
Making Own Books
Art Center
Girlpie (F)
African-American
Homemade Love
hooks, bell
Retell story through paintings
Art Center
Joe-Joe (M)
African American
Joe-Joe’s First flight
Tarpley, Natasha Anastasia
Story Retelling
Art Center
Lena (F)
African American
The Color of Us
Katz, Karen
Painting
Art Center
Marcenia (F)
African American
Catching the Moon: The Story of a Young Girl’s Baseball Dream
Hubbard, Crystal
Ball playing
Large Motor Center
Max (M)
African-American
Max Found Two Sticks
Pinkney, Brian
Drumming (rhythm)
Music Center
Quinnie (F)
African American
Quinnie Blue
Johnson, Dinah
Questioning
Dramatic Play Center
Anna (F)
Anglo-American

Building a Bridge
Begaye, Lisa
Building a bridge
Block Center
Annie (F)
Anglo-American
The Other Side
Woodson, Jacqueline
Create jump rope rhymes
Writing center/recording center
Boy
Anglo
Dream Weaver
London, Jonathan
Recording observations
Science Center
Granddaughter (F)
Anglo-American
Thunder Cake
Polacco, Patricia
Cooking
Dramatic Play Center
Harry (M)

Anglo-American

Mr. George Baker
Hest, Amy
Making Own Books
Art Center
Lucy (F)
Anglo-American
Grandpa’s Corner Store
DiSalvo-Ryan, DyAnne
Build a neighborhood
Block Center
Mark (M)
Anglo-American
Night of the Moonjellies
Shasha, Mark
Working at a seaside hot dog stand
Dramatic Play Center
Max (M)
Anglo
Where The Wild Things Are
Sendak, Maurice
Dancing (rhythm)
Music center


Cultural Characters

Name (Gender)
Culture
Title of Book
Author
Possible Activity
Learning Center
Sophie (F)
Anglo-American
When Sophie Gets Angry…Really, Really Angry
Bang, Molly
Painting Center: What I Can Do When I Get Angry
Art Center
Monique (F)
Anglo
Unique Monique
Rousaki, Maria
Painting
Art Center
Unnamed boy
Anglo-American
Yo! Yes!
Raschka, Chris
Perform Text
Dramatic Play Center
Little girl
Asian
Tracks in the Snow
Yee, Wong Herbert
Questioning
Dramatic Play Center
Anu (F)
Asian American
Closet Ghosts
Krishnaswami, Uma
Phone Conversation
Dramatic Play Center
Emma(F)
Asian American
Emma’s Rug
Say, Allen
Painting
Art Center
Hannah (F)
Chinese
Hannah is My Name
Yang, Belle
Retell the Story
Book Center
Xiao Ming (M)
Chinese
At the Beach
Lee, Huy Youn
Write 10 Chinese Characters
Sand Table
Henry (M)
Chinese-American
Henry and the Kite Dragon
Hall, Bruce Edward
Kite Making & Decorating
Art Center
Ling Sung (M)
Chinese-American
Cleversticks
Ashley, Bernard
Using chopsticks
Dramatic play center
Narrator (B)
Chinese-American
Big Jimmy’s Kum Kau Chinese Take Out
Lewin, Ted
Making Food
Preparing Menus
Dramatic Play Center
Helen (F)
Chinese & Anglo American
Grandfather Counts
Cheng, Andrea
Counting in English & Chinese
Math Center
Nim (F)
Chinese-American
Nim and the War Effort
Lee, Milly
Build a neighborhood
Block Center
Chavi (F)
Cuban
Drum, Chavi, Drum
Dole, Mayra L.
Drumming (Rhythm)
Music Center
Ahmed (M)
Egyptian
The Day of Ahmed’s Secret
Heide, Florence
Writing Name
Writing Center
Lakas (M)
Filipino
Lakas and the Manilatown Fish/Si Lakas at ang Isdang Manilatown
Robles, Anthony D.
Flannel Board Story
Book Center
Esperanza (F)
Guatemalan
Abuela’s Weave
Castaneda, Omar S.
Weaving
Dramatic Play Center/Art Center
Pascual (M)
Guatemalan
Pascual’s Magic Pictures
Gage,  Amy
Writing Captions
Writing Center
Marisa (F)
Hawaiian
Dumpling Soup
Rattigan, Jama Kim
Making Food
Dramatic Play Center
Carlitos (M)
Hispanic
¡Si, Se Puede! Yes, We Can!
Herrera, Juan Felipe
Flannel Board Story
Book Center
Chico (M)
Hispanic
First Day in the Grapes
Perez, L. King
Role Play Resolving Conflicts
Dramatic Play Center
Danilito (M)
Hispanic
When This World Was New
Figueredo, D.H.
Pastel Snow Drawings
Art Center


 Cultural Characters

Name (Gender)
Culture
Title of Book
Author
Possible Activity
Learning Center
Francísco (M)
Hispanic
La Maríposa
Jiménez, Francísco
Drawing
Art Center
Luna (F)
Hispanic
Moony Luna: Luna, Lunita, Lunera
Argueta, Jorge
Retell the Story (Sequence)
Book Center
Pablo (M)
Hispanic
Pablo’s Tree
Mora, Pat
Cutting Decorations
Art Center
Rosa (F)
Hispanic
A Chair for My Mother
Williams, Vera B.
Counting coins
Math Center
Rosalba (F)
Hispanic
Abuela
Dorros, Arthur
Conversation
Block Center
Tomasito (M)
Hispanic (spina bifada)
Featherless/Desplumado
Herrera, Juan Felipe
Flannel Board Story
Book Center
Girl(F)
Indian
Monsoon
Krishnaswami, Uma
Making Cityscapes
Block Center
Eva (F)
Inuit
Very Last First Time
Andrews, Jan
Story Retelling
Book Center
Ida (F)
Jamaican
The Tangerine Tree
Hanson, Regina
Planting Seeds
Science Center
Mariko (F)
Japanese
Flowers from Mariko
Noguchi, Rick & Jenks, Doreen
Planting Seeds
Science Center
Sesshu Toyo (M)
Japanese
The Boy Who Drew Cats
Hodges, Margaret
Drawing
Art Center
Kiri (F)
Japanese-American
Butterflies for Kiri
Falwell, Cathryn
Origami
Art Center
Sang-hee (M)
Korean
The Firekeeper’s Son
Park, Linda Sue
Flannel Board Story
Book Center
Yoon (F)
Korean
My Name is Yoon
Recovits, Helen
Write Name
Writing Center
Unnamed Narrator (F)
Korean-American
The Trip Back Home
Wong, Janet
Retell the Story with Story Artifacts
Book Center
Mike (M)
Korean-American
The Have A Good Day Café
Park, Frances & Ginger Park
Running a Business
Dramatic Play Center
Cooper (M)
Korean, Anglo-American
Cooper’s Lesson
Shin, Sun Yung
Paint Self-Portrait
Art Center
María (F)
Mexican
Too Many Tamales
Soto, Gary
Making tamales
Dramatic Play Center
Mateo (M)
Mexican
Dream Carver
Cohn, Diana
Painting Wooden Toys
Art Center
Esmeralda (F)
Mexican
Hairs/Pelitos
Cisneros, Sandra
Metaphor writing
Writing Center
Esmeralda (F)
Mexican
Super Cilantro Girl/La superniña del cilantro
Herrera, Juan Felipe
Create a Super Hero/Heroine
Art Center
John Cloud (M)
Mohawk
Sky Dancers
Kirk, Connie Ann
Making Cityscapes
Block Center
Dear One (F)
Native Alaskan
Mama, Do You Love Me?
Joosse, Barbara M.
Questioning
Dramatic Play Center
Jenna (F)
Native American
Jingle Dancer
Smith, Cynthia Leitich
Dancing (Rhythm)
Music Center

Name (Gender)
Culture
Title of Book
Author
Possible Activity
Learning Center
Juanita (F)
Navajo

Building a Bridge
Begaye, Lisa
Building a bridge
Block Center
John (M)
Navajo

The Unbreakable Code
Hunter, Sara Hoagland
Create a code
Math center/art center
Allie (F) & Alex (F)
Ojibway
Skysisters
Waboose, Jan Bordeau
Conversation
Sand table
Art center
Mona (F)
Palestinian-American
Sitti’s Secrets
Nye, Naomi Shihab
Write/dictate a letter
Writing center/recording center
Sister Girl (F)
Plains Indian

The Star People: A Lakota Story
Nelson, S.D.
Imitate Ledger Art
Art center
Young Wolf (M)
Plains Indian

The Star People: A Lakota Story
Nelson, S.D.
Imitate Ledger Art
Art center
Flying Cloud (M)
Plains Indian

Gift Horse: A Lakota Story
Nelson, S.D.
Retell using Ledger Art
Art center
Zola, et al.
South African
At the Crossroads
Isadora, Rachel
Continuing the story
Book Center
Hannah (F)
Taiwanese
Hannah Is My Name
Yang, Belle
Making Food
Dramatic Play Center
Shay-yu (F)
Taiwanese
On My Way To Buy Eggs
Chen, Chin-Yuan
Retell story events
Art Center
Elizabeti (F)
Tanzanian
Elizabeti’s School
Stuve-Bodeen, Stephanie
Dancing and/or Counting
Dramtic Play Center/Math Center
Kiki (F)
Tiwa Indian

Kiki’s Journey
Orona-Ramirez, Kristy
Cooking
Dramatic Play Center
Kukamba (F)
Zimbabwean

Gugu’s House
Stock, Catherine
Painting
Art Center
  

Work Cited: 
Rohmer, Harriet, Ed. (1997). Just Like Me: Stories and Self-Portraits by Fourteen Artists. San Francisco: Children’s Book Press, p. 24.

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