Have books, televisions, and the internet replaced the role of the storyteller in this society?

Before the days of the radio, tv, and written words, Storytellers were who we gathered around in the evening for entertainment, to learn morals, to learn the history of the community, and of the travels of visitors that may have been passing through. Stories can also be used to teach science, math, language, social studies, art, and survival. In our current society, there seems to be a simplifying of these stories to suit the english reading levels of small children, making these stories solely for youth and not for everyone. For me the subject of culturally relevant storybooks is a double edged sword. While I appreciate the art, I do not appreciate the simplification of the stories. While I agree that it is important to preserve the stories, I think they should be documented in a manner where they are intact.

I read several story books in class that day and I did not find any satisfaction in any of them other then the story that was read to us. I found the books to be empty of reference to where the stories come from, with some lose reference through the art indicating their origins. As an educator I think I will have local Elders and Storytellers come in to share and to incorporate local knowledge into the lessons and to the school experience.

image from:http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/C-3PO

Very Last First Time By Jan Andrews

This story was about a girl (elementary-aged) that had the responsibility of going under the ice to collect food during a very tide-dependent time.  The family lived in a part of Alaska where the ice that freezes over the water eventually gets to a point where the ice is still in tact but the liquid water follows high and low tide and the ocean floor is exposed when the tide goes out.  It was an important source of food for the family and the story is about her very first time going down alone to collect clams, oysters, etc.  Her mom saws a hole open in the ice for her to jump down and explore.  She had done it many times with her mother but this was her first time alone and by the end of the book, she realizes she will never have that “first time” experience again.  When she is down under the ice, she gets too far from the hole she jumped in and realizes she is lost and the tide starts to come back in.  There is a time of panic and then she remembers to follow the glimpse of light to find her way out.  The storybook had beautiful drawings and the title is initially what drew me to it.

I think the phrase Very Last First Time is very powerful.  There is a first for everything you do and it will be your only time that it happens.  I love this overall saying for any class setting.  Also, the girl was able to overcome an obstacle based on her problem-solving skills and this lesson/skill has always stuck with me.  I hope to teach the students that they are capable of anything and they need to be the first ones to realize that.  Besides the overall meaning of the book, I think a lesson could be made out of tides and how the girl in the book knew what danger that meant for her.  Earth’s tides are so moving (pun intended) and this book could easily be a SPARK to a lesson/activity on tides.

The Prince and the Salmon People

Using Multicultural literature in the Secondary Classroom with Kathy Neilson was a fantastic session. I love the invitation to use picture books as a spark for secondary classrooms.

The Prince and the Salmon People

I chose book The Prince and the Salmon People written by Claire Rudolf Murphy and illustrated by Duane Pasco. This Tsimshian narrative is familiar to me, but is a different version than the Tlingit version Aak’wtaatseen.

Based on the rubric for evaluating multicultural literature I felt the quality of the literature was well-developed plot, setting and characters, point of view and dialogue interwoven in interesting story. The illustrations were also of high quality.


While this book was not written by a Tsimshian person, it was obviously deeply researched and reflective of oral narratives and a deep understanding cultural behaviors. I especially enjoyed that photos of artwork, clothing and aat.oow and information that the illustrator based his illustrations off of.


The characters are not exaggerated in relation to their culture. Diversity of physical characteristics of characters within the cultural group portrayed. The author did not shy away from addressing status or cultural hierarchies and did not mythicize the shaman character, even providing the research and acknowledgement of shamans as holy people or scientists.

The setting was authentic, drifting between our world and the salmon people’s world and back. I enjoyed how the author also included a map and photographs of the story’s setting.


Th theme is universal and applied correctly to the culture portrayed. The Prince and the Salmon People provide opportunities to consider multiple perspectives, as many oral narratives do, providing views the treatment of animals and fish as beings deserving and requiring respect. The cultural values were clearly expressed and beautifully illustrated and blended with the anthropological research and artifacts representative of a rich and living culture.


As a science teacher I could see using this book for the introduction of a number of lessons regarding salmon life cycles, the 5 salmon species and the timing of their migrations, salmon food preservation and bentwood boxes.

The Boy Who Lived with the Seals: Children Book Review

Rafe Martin’s, “The Boy who lived with the Seals” evokes powerful themes and contains breathtaking illustrations.  The story is about a young boy who disappears and is discovered some time later living harmoniously among the seals.  In the depths of the night he is stolen and delivered to his original clan.  It is clear however that he has been forever changed and does not fit into the world he once new.  He shies away from other humans and spends time carving by the sea where the sounds of seals can be heard.


As spring approaches, the clan travels along the sea.  While doing so they must keep the boy tied down in the canoes so he does not jump in and return to the seals.IMG_0352

But the boy eventually breaks free and returns to the world of the sealsIMG_0354

His family is initially sad and continues to search for him, but every spring they find a new canoe carved for them, and find peace.


Analyzing this book along the rubric we received, I felt it deserved the best score in each category.  The story was well developed, the boy’s development was the main focus and the illustrations brought the setting to life.  While the Author’s authority could be argued, Rafe Martin has published other myths retold in a way that has been welcomed by different communities, that being said, his authority on Native stories could be challenged.

I would love to use a story of this nature in my Social Studies class to start a discussion about anthropology and embedding within a community, citing real life examples of Stanley Livingston and so on.  Also posing questions about family structures and in what ways it can be difficult to go against the norm and find your own place in the world.  This reminds me that my students are not blank slates, they come with a world of knowledge, some may be able to relate closely to this story, either through adoption from another culture, or foster care.  Developing a discussion in a open and supportive atmosphere would be my biggest goal.



Kids at Heart

I learned a new way to approach children’s books in a high school setting. At first, I was unfairly a little skeptical when Kathy Nielson brought in a bunch of kids books with the intentions of reading them to middle school and high school kids. Even though I like kids books, I could not see how to link them together in a lesson. I was mistaken and should not have jumped to conclusions.

I really enjoyed how Kathy tied together the book Secret of the Dance and how she made it relevant to an older audience. It was genius. I liked how there were many angles that could be explored when talking about the book afterward and how powerful the book was in general.

I read a book that she brought in called Frog Girl. While reading it I could see using this book in a biology setting because the book in part talks about frogs and overharvesting. It also covers some of the seasons and the changes that happen and a volcano eruption. I like the balance that it suggests keeping the ecosystem in check. I could use this book as a way to start the topic of the environment, ecosystem, overharvesting, balance in nature and the introduction of volcanos and the layers of the earth and the tectonic plates.

I will be reading kids books to high school kids when I am a teacher. After all, we are all kids at heart and we shouldn’t always take things so seriously.

How Raven Stole the Sun

How Raven Stole the Sun tells how Raven, through his art of trickery, was able to fool the rich chief who greedily kept the sun, moon, and stars hidden away in boxes in his home. I especially liked the portion of the story that told how Raven came to be black.  Raven transformed himself into a baby who was born to the greedy chief’s daughter. Raven cried and cried, pointing to the box that held the sun, until the chief gave the box to him. When the chief wasn’t looking, he transformed himself back into a bird and flew through the smoke hole in the ceiling. The sun flew up into the sky as the soot covered him from his beak all the way down to his feet.

I would give this story 3’s all across the board. Maria Williams is Tlingit author, who credits her father for passing this story down to her as a child. The story was easy to follow and fun to read. I feel like secondary students would appreciate Raven’s trickster qualities. Though Raven played tricks to get what he wanted, his desire was not of selfish intent as it benefited everyone in the world. And it would be a great way to introduce a unit on mythology.

Multicultural Literature

The first book I picked up during our multicultural storybook exploration was called The Day the Sun was Stolen by Jamie Oliviero. I was drawn to this book because of the formline art it featured for illustrations. All of the characters and settings featured formline faces and designs, an element which captures the reader’s attention immediately. In this story, Raven creates the sun, which is quickly stolen from the world by Bear. Bear has heavy fur and decides to keep cool by stealing the sun and hiding it in his cave. Raven sends a young boy to rescue the sun from Bear. The boy disguises himself as a fish and waits for Bear to catch him. Bear catches the boy, but, too full to eat him, takes him back to his lair. The boy shaves off Bear’s fur and escapes in the night. When Bear wakes up, he is too cold and realizes that he must put the sun back up in the sky. After evaluating this book with the rubric for multicultural literature, I would give this book at 2.5 rating. For the category of “Quality Literature”, I would give the book a 2 rating because I feel that the story could have been more developed and delivered more convincingly. For the category of “Authority”, I would give the book a 2 rating because the author is not a member of the culture. However, he treats the story and the material sensitively, and the illustrator Sharon Hitchcock is of native ancestry, so these are some positive points. For the category of “Authenticity of Characters”, I would give the book a 2 rating because I felt that the characters could be more developed and multifaceted. For the categories of “Authenticity of Setting”, “Dialogue and Discourse”, and “Theme”, I would give the book a 3 rating for each category because the story was sensitively conveyed and did not resort to stereotypes. Overall, this comes out to a 2.5 rating.

The book I would use for a lesson in my content area is called Raven Goes Berrypicking by Anne Cameron. I feel that this storybook has great potential to be used in the music classroom because it can be used to introduce the study of chamber music. In this story, Raven is a trickster who has three friends named Puffin, Gull, and Cormorant. The four friends go canoeing, fishing, hunting for mussels, and berry picking as a team, however Raven finds a way to get out of doing work in every situation, and she is the antithesis of a team player. After being tricked during all of their adventures, Gull, Puffin, and Cormorant decide to teach Raven a lesson. They force her to do all the work she has avoided and tie up her beak, so that she cannot complain. In the end, Raven realizes that she has alienated her friends, and she is destined to live a solitary life, alone in the treetops. I would utilize the moral of this story to introduce some of the social, cooperative, and teamwork skills needed for playing chamber music. It could be a great intro to some teambuilding activities to prepare for performing in small groups. I would use the story to stress the importance of communication, respect, equality, teamwork, compromise, and cooperation in playing chamber music. Looking at the four characters of the book would be a great way to introduce the string quartet in a strings class. The class could look at the relationship of the four characters and compare with the relationship of the four players in a string quartet as a way of understanding the social dynamics that go on in an ensemble. The story could be a good way to broach the subject of maintaining healthy interpersonal relationships in a string quartet or any other type of ensemble. The main focus of my lesson would be to emphasize the importance of creating a strong interpersonal foundation and sense of responsibility and teamwork within a small ensemble.