Women's voices in fiction is not a topic of discussion in the primary grades, especially in Kindergarten. Exposure to literature is the truest goal for a great number of classroom teachers in New Haven. The overall lack of experience with reading is a hurdle in Kindergarten. The concept of fiction versus nonfiction also does not play a strong role in the Language Arts curriculum for the early years of education. Most Kindergarten students are steered toward simply reading stories without defining the voice of the author, especially as it pertains to the author's gender. This tendency could be due to the lack of appropriate resources or curriculum available to Kindergarten students. However, this tendency could also be due to the lack of personal understanding and comprehension of women's voices in fiction as experienced by the classroom teacher. My goal is not to "reinvent the wheel" but to make obvious the opportunities within the Language Arts curriculum that offer a gender perspective.
Kindergarten and the primary grades encourage the use of hands-on activities in the classroom curriculum. The alternative activities defined by rote-style learning further conflict with the goals of this unit. The memorization of concepts, words, letters and sounds stifles any author's voice. The only purpose of reading is for reinforcement of the concept most recently memorized. Under these circumstances, students do not have the opportunity to read for pleasure and appreciate an author's voice.
The closest parallel to hands-on activities regarding the family is the involvement of family members in the teaching of this unit. The family best known by my kindergartners is their own, that is, their parents, grandparents, siblings and other close relatives. The focus for this unit is gender differences and similarities. The gender similarities and differences are defined through the discussion of family members, their interests and habits. Planning and structuring a full-bodied, hands-on curriculum unit for the study of gender differences and similarities assists with the understanding of women's voices in fiction beyond Kindergarten. By building upon what a five- or six-year-old best understands, the complexities of voice have greater meaning in the future. I have planned and will implement many hands-on projects and discussions of gender through my unit topic, "My Family: Gender Differences and Similarities."