Saturday, November 28, 2015

Text Set: Rethinking Explorers

Last week I presented at NCTE in a session called "Reading Another Culture: Teaching Diversity without Reinforcing Stereotypes.

As part of that session, I am putting together various text sets of picture books that teachers and parents can use to help introduce children to diverse characters and children around the world. The complete handouts from the talk are available here.

This is the third in a series of posts that provides more details about each of the example text sets. The first post featured books that celebrate the diversity of families and family structures, while the second highlighted books from a variety of people and countries in Africa.

Rethinking Explorers: alternate perspectives and point of view

When I taught fourth grade, once of our units of study was on The Age of Exploration and the discovery and subsequent colonization of the Americas. Most nonfiction books and picture books available on these topics still focus on the explorers and their "great deeds." These two picture books provide different views than the standard explorer narratives.

Encounter (1996) by Jane Yolen and illustrated by David Shannon. This Columbus story is told instead from the point-of-view of a young Taino boy. He has a dream that warns his about arriving strangers, but the chief and other adults ignore his pleas. This story provides a powerful way for kids to think about this historical event from a non-traditional viewpoint.

Lost City: the discovery of Machu Picchu (2003) by Ted Lewin. This book is more subtle but has provided a way to have some very interesting conversations about the concept of discovery.

Lost City tells the true story of Hiram Bingham's efforts to find the lost Inca city of Vilcapampa in 1911 but instead being introduced to Machu Picchu. What I appreciate about this "discovery" story is that the credit is given to local people and local knowledge, and it's a great book for helping kids discuss the idea of "discovering" something some one already knows about.

Notes from a student's reflection
What does Bigham [mean]? I've seen a [terrace] before. I was really really high. Why would he ask people where is the lost city and they knew where the city was? So then it isn't really a lost city. The end was a good ending. Did people live there after?

Do you have a favorite picture book that presents a different viewpoint on explorers or exploration? Please share in the comments below! For more text sets on diverse topics, please click here.

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