Sunday, November 20, 2011

Picture Book Month: No Ke Kumu 'Ulu - Teaching through Place-Based Literature

Today's theme is Folk and Fairy tales, so I would be remiss to not talk about at least one Hawaiian folk tale. Hawaiians are an oral culture, so the mo'olelo (the stories) are numerous, so this is just one.
Kawehi Avelino's tale is about Kū, a Hawaiian deity who took the form of a human in order to live a   normal life. He works hard as a human to support his family, but things begin to change and there is famine across the land. In order to save his family and his community, Kū sacrifices himself by leaving his family and goig on a journey through the earth. The tears of his grieving wife at the spot where he disappears sprouts and the first breadfruit tree is born. This tree grows and multiplies so that his family and his people can escape the famine.

What it looks like in the Middle:
Each region has its own indigenous culture and as middle school students struggle with their own identity, finding picture books that tell their story, with pictures of people that look like them is very important.

This book is a bilingual legend about this place and about how our ancestors were able to live on these islands. It can be used to introduce legends as a genre for writing workshop, but it also is a way to talk about values of our culture. This particular book exemplifies values like kuleana (responsibility) and lokahi (working together), but it also talks about what Hawaiians valued (water, land, community, family).

Students also learn important Hawaiian vocabulary through this book, but the real value is in the uplifting of a people through the honoring of their own place-based literature. Scour the small bookstores and local museums for these gems within your own community.

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