Our final topic for September, “change over time,” may seem like a natural occurrence and not necessarily an issue of concern. However, we know it all depends on the change and how it is perceived by different individuals. As a global issue, change over time can involve people, places, environmental issues, and cultural perspectives, to mention a few.
While contemplating contemporary issues that cross global communities reflected in children’s literature, I recently found a title of interest in the 2016 Outstanding International Book list of USBBY. This list crosses all levels of readers, young children to young adult, and includes books from a diversity of countries.
We continue last week’s introduction on sharing children’s literature by focusing on picture books. The notion of a picture book for many is that of “cute” books for young readers. However, images and text in picture books nurture creative and critical thinking. Each new class of preservice teachers I instruct proves this idea and so do many educators already in classrooms. While chapter books approach social issues in their own right, the significance of images in today’s communicative contexts creates a place for illustrators to tell their stories through a variety of modes and mediums. With this in mind, we consider immigration through global perspectives in recent picture books.
Teaching classes not directly related to children’s or adolescent literature can challenge those whose professional and personal lives involve the potential of literature to bring new insights and perspectives to readers. While our field is vast, not all educators, parents or readers are aware of the potential for contemporary literacy learners. Contemporary children’s literature offers diverse, global perspectives and nurtures a critical mindset for understanding societal issues.
By Angeline P. Hoffman, White Mountain Apache Tribe
The cultural roles of an elder for American Indians include passing down knowledge through intergenerational teaching and learning. Elders, through their empowered words of wisdom and existence, transfer their insight from one generation to the next. In the Apache culture, “elder” endures as a highly-regarded status. Native American elders possess experiential understanding and knowledge, the stories of the world, and especially compassion for their grandchildren. Elders, also known to others as oral historians, teach respect and demonstrate how to respect one another. Joseph Bruchac says that elders and children are meant to be close. By no accident, in every part of the world children and grandparents often share a special understanding and bond. Native American elders connect with their traditional heritage and culture, more so than many other cultures.
By Angeline P. Hoffman, White Mountain Apache
Designed for Indigenous people, Coyote represents many different characters or things; not one of them is cute. Coyote is a trickster and all trickster figures are more or less human in Native American literature. Besides being such a fool, Coyote is a supernatural being. While the supernatural powers do not necessarily appear in every story, that background knowledge affirms the Coyote stories. We tend to laugh at many of the messes he gets himself into but we also know what he is capable of. In different ways, his characteristics frequently portray some of our worst human aspects. For him “good” and “evil” are not opposites, but represent a continuum.