Archives For India

You don’t need to be Snow White to understand the power of a mirror. You just need to be a kid who has an adult who shares a book with you that reflects a part of your identity.

The joy which flooded my first grader’s face today as I told her and her classmates about a number of “old friends and new friends” made my aching back and sore feet worth all the while.

I didn’t need the reward of her glee half as much as she needed the validation that the world and her place in it was okay just because during the book fair I shared a book (with her in mind) called Tales of India.

But I didn’t share this book just for Diviya.  I shared it for all my first graders. For Diviya, this mirror, along with my pathetic year-long attempts to count in Hindi every time she comes to library, might help her know that there are people in the world who both recognize and celebrate her differences. But I also want my students, who may not have the direct life experience of the richness of the world, to know it exists. That is the power of story. It can work both ways. Each way forges a connection.

While it was a calculated gesture – I make sure I can share books that reflect my community and also expand their horizons-  it was also a simple and easy act that paid more than it’s weight in delight.

May we all have such  moments where we can feel the delight of self recognition or the awe of  providing it for others. May we all enjoy the thrill of stepping  out of our comfort zones and listening  to unfamiliar stories and experiences.

Go forth and find at least one mirror and one window today.

179841-festive-season-across-the-world-halloween-in-the-u-s-and-diwali-2011-fThe daylong days of daylight are dipping into darkness and the harvest season is coming to a close, so it was fitting that last week people all around the world celebrated the festival of lights. I started to write about this important Hindu New Year’s celebration last Monday. However, I spent so much time trying to find books to share with kids that I never finished.

I have always made a display of Diwali books but have never tried to look for a read-aloud. This year, Diwali, observed on the darkest, moonless night in the month of Kartik, fell on Sunday November 3rd. So I thought it would be fitting to share a read aloud with my first graders whom I see on Mondays.

Try as I might, I couldn’t find one title that wasn’t non-fiction. Now don’t get me wrong; I wanted my students to learn the truth about how the traditions differ from region to region, both within India, and around the world. I wanted them to know that “deep“ means light and “avali” means a “continuous line,” and that the lighting of diyas (tiny clay pots with wicks of oil or ghee) symbolizes the triumph of good over evil and the banishing of darkness through knowledge.

Yet I know humans are hard-wired for stories, and so a story is what I wanted to share. I wanted to offer many in my community a window into this lovely celebration, while providing a mirror for those students who celebrate Diwali.

But alas, I couldn’t find such a story. I even recruited a Southern Indian friend of mine, who, whenever she returns to her homeland, brings back panchatantra tales to add to my library collection.

She didn’t have any luck either. She did find one book to have inaccurate information about the gods. A good reminder for us all to authenticate our information. I was disappointed to come up empty. But then I thought, if knowledge banishes the darkness, and stories originated around the tribal fire, what better way to celebrate Diwali than to create a new Diwali read aloud to share.

So if you have narrative story to weave about Diwali, the children’s market is wide open. Get writing. That’s what I’m off to do. Research then write. We’d love to hear what you have to share here first.