Are you interested in learning cultural literature in school or did you learn any good stories you could tell your kids or your student children? IF so, and if you answered yes to both these questions, here’s a hint when dealing with cultural literature. When you’re dealing with Native American and Asian children, in fact any kid who is not Eurocentric raised or bred in a European style home, you have got to make sure that these children are familiar with stories they can connect with. Even with the European bred children, the ones who are considered Caucasian, there are acceptable levels and pieces I could go on for hours about, but legends and tall tales are very important work of what I call “cultural literature.” Then, when a child goes on to high school, like this one young man I knew who did, they should b reading culturally different stories such as that of African and Native authors. Why bother restricting all schoolchildren to reading Eurocentric trash? Here are things to stay away from:
For younger readers, don’t encourage too many stories that put girls in a bad position. Examples include Cinderella and Snow White. However, you can use Little Red Riding Hood to teach about strangers and the dangers of thinking that grandma is grandma, but then gets eaten by a wolf, but it does teach somewhat about stranger danger. I would encourage the Hansel and Gretel iterations but the stories in which princesses are supposed to be shown as weak and meek and only marriageable by rite of the monarchy are not good for kids till they get a bit older and can understand the difference between fantasy and reality. Cinderella is best read outside the class.
It’s hard to find stories for disabled kids, but please make an effort to teach cultural literature that includes disabled kids, teaches about weather patterns and legends beyond the European princess culture. Examples, I’ve read this interesting Abenaki story of an eagle who makes the wind blow, and this one guy was like, I’m sick of it, and tried to stop the wind. When he tied the eagle up, preventing the wind from going, the eagle got mad and blew off the poor guy’s hair. You can’t stop the winds from blowing, the story says. There are other stories I’ve read too, and for a collection of woman friendly stories, especially for Native Americans, I’d recommend the collection called the Girl Who Married the Moon which is chalk full of stories about girls, girls who do things to outwit their enemies. One of my favorites is a Cherokee legend called Stonecoat. It’s about seven young women in their moontimes, women given the power of giving life, who take the life of a stone enemy. These women tell Stonecoat when he says, “Granddaughter, you’re in a dirty way,” that “no, we’re in the sacred way.” These women, all in what we’d call menstruating times, would culturally be respected because of this legend and others like it. Spoiler alert, Stonecoat is weakened by the time he reaches the oldest woman in her moon time and is thrown in to the fire, but the information he provides is invaluable to the tribes. Stories like these validate the existence of Native girls, and can be used for the study of cultral literature, provided the schools include this in the environment so that girls feel included and valid.
When a child is a teenager, going into high school, as I mentioned before, they need to think outside the bun. I think outside the box all the time, but the thinking outside the bun gives girls and boys and others alike an opportunity to embrace classmates and their cultures who are different than the Eurocentric ones. I had the privilege and honor of singing and studying African cultures, so there you have it. Cultural lit is important, and getting to know your identity and those of others is very important. Just keep up the great work when you are reading, and you will come to understand and know every thing you are able to read.
If you are the kind of person who loves to study other cultures, here’s an incentive for you. Rudyard Kipling’s character Mowgli has to study all the natural languages of animals, which lead him to becomig the keeper of the jungle law. HE learns from many people and animals, so why shouldn’t we?