Wednesday, February 6, 2013



When I was very young, I remember my mother would walk my brother and me to the library every week.  We would be allowed to explore the many books and then choose some to take home with us for the week.  Even before we could read, we were borrowing books from our public library.  

Reading was always very important in my home.  It still is today with everyone in the family.  We are always sharing books, talking about books we have read, and generally just enjoying book talk!

From my earliest memories, I remember Cinderella being one of my favorite stories.  I just loved the Disney version of the story.  I guess most little girls do!
"Well there's one thing.

They CAN'T order me to stop dreaming!"

When I began teaching, I learned how many versions of the Cinderella story exist.  Today, I am fascinated by the variety of multicultural Cinderella stories available.

I always enjoy reading Cendrillon, A Caribbean Cinderella.  
Of course, my fascination might be connected to my love of the Caribbean.  However, it is really Brian Pinkney's illustrations which draw me in.  I find they are absolutely beautiful.  

You can learn about many more versions of Cinderella at the American Library Association. 

My favorite multicultural Cinderella story is Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters: An African Tale.  John Steptoe's version of Cinderella was inspired by a story collected by G. M. Theal and published in 1895 in his book, Kaffar Folktales.  Details in the illustrations depict the architecture of the Zimbabwe ruins and the flora and fauna of the Zimbabwe region.   The book was named a Caldecott Honor Book and the illustrations are most worthy of that distinction.

Wedding Invitations
At a time when teachers are busy teaching their students to write persuasive and narrative essays, it sometimes is easy to let everyday writing slip away.  After reading Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters with the class, it would be wonderful to design wedding invitations announcing Nyasha's wedding to the king.  Students could locate examples and then let the creativity flow!  Students can decide on colors and a theme, as well as learn the information that is required for an invitation.

It would also be easy to use the story as a cross-curriculum project in math to design a budget for a wedding!

Caldecott Award
Another post-reading project for the class would be to research the Caldecott Award and the criteria for receiving the award.  Many students recognize the depiction of the award, but may not be aware of its significance.  After discussing the roles of illustrations in children's books, students can then illustrate a scene from a traditional African village.  This would also make a great idea for a bulletin board.

Cinderella Stories
You can find a great collection of multicultural Cinderella stories on the University of Pittsburgh website.  Students can read several and write comparison essays; they can write their own version of a Cinderella story; and teachers can discuss common traits of Cinderella stories.

Paper Roll Snakes
This project was inspired by Nyasha's friendship with the snake in her garden.  It is a fun project, especially for younger children and can be done in the classroom or at home.  It is also an inexpensive project that requires easy-to-find materials.  It would also be a great display in the classroom or bedroom/playroom.

African Yam Soup
Since yams were one of the crops grown in the village, we decided we wanted to find a recipe that incorporated that aspect of the story.  We found this great recipe for African Yam Soup.  I love soup, especially this time of year, and my son loves yams, so this was definitely a winner!  It includes common ingredients and it would be easy to find ways for the kids to help make the soup, as well as having a taste test.

First Names
I think most children are aware of the meanings of names from movies such as The Lion King in which the characters' names are taken from the African language of Swahili.  The same is done in Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters.  "Nyasha" means mercy and "Manyara" means ashamed.  Students will easily be able to see the connection between the characters' names and their personalities.  Students can then use the website to research their own names and find the meanings.

After researching, students can design a collage with images that represent the meanings of their names.  Students can also write essays examining the connections between their names and their personalities as in the story. 

African Masks
Children always love art projects and another great idea for a post-reading project is to make an African mask.  Teachers can discuss with their students the role of the masks and then have students design their own.  The link we have included gives detailed instructions on how to make one.  It would then be fun to see the students act out a scene using their masks before displaying them.

Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters is such a wonderful book to share with children.  There are so many activities that can enhance the story and bring African culture to life.  It is easy for children to get absorbed in the story and learn about a great deal of topics; from snakes to soups to masks!  However, the lesson that the story teaches our children about LOVE is invaluable.  It is a theme of such paramount importance, it is highlighted in many stories we hear as children, and then continue to hold dear throughout our lives!

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