African American Literature through the stories of Faith Ringgold becomes the basis of analysis for enrichment and encouragement to young children. Students are inspired to look beyond their struggles, problems, and surroundings. They are encouraged to look for ways in which they can become exceptional young people by facing the challenges in their daily lives.
In her book,
, Ringgold takes young children on a dream ride through the eyes of Cassie Louise Lightfoot. Cassie looks down on Harlem as it was in 1939. Her father had to look for jobs in the winter as a blue collar construction worker because he was “colored” or considered a “half-breed Indian.” He was excluded from the union for the same reasons. The family is poor, and constantly faces prejudice because of their color. Cassie loves to lie on the tarred flat roof in the middle of the night and dream of her father being rich, holding a job that would make the family proud, and even owning The Union Building. Cassie is not going to let prejudice rule her future; she feels confident and capable of accomplishing anything. The book inspires children to master their own difficulties in their surroundings by dreaming and aspiring to one’s ambitions. They are encouraged to fly over their hardships. Are young children able to grasp and come up with meaningful conclusions about their surroundings and its consequential affects upon their lives? Are children able to dream on their own initiative or must they be taught to aspire and look beyond the challenges and difficulties in their surroundings? Suppose nobody challenges them or dares to put the spark within their souls!
With these thoughts in mind, I would like to explore strategies in which puppetry and the art of story-telling, via Faith Ringgold’s stories, can be integrated into a unit for helping young children explore their own feelings of hardships, and look for survival skills for overcoming those difficulties. The children will determine and discuss the hardships that face the characters in Faith Ringgold’s stories, along with the survival skills that they use to face their adversities. The children in turn will compare and contrast their own hardship with those of the characters. They will be challenged to dream of their future goals and aspirations coming up with suggestions for their own survival skills. The unit, whose primary emphasis is literature, will also integrate various art forms such as poetry, writing, song, drama, and crafts.
Why would I choose African American Literature as a basis for my unit of study? In my school at L. W. Beecher where I teach first grade, 90 to 95% of the student body is from African American descent with the remaining population Hispanic/Latino and Caucasian. The class that I teach is a self-contained classroom with a wide variety of abilities in the six-to eight-year old age range. Coming from varying social-economic backgrounds, as well as academic abilities, the children exhibit a need for improved vocabulary and self-esteem. Many have a myriad of social-emotional problems that cloud their perceptions and hinder them in forming meaningful relationships. As a result, a lot of effort is lost through antagonism and anger.
More specifically, my unit will include activities suitable for children in kindergarten through third grades with an emphasis on literacy for the first grade child. The unit will cover curriculum areas such as social studies, science, music, drama, and art. This study is not bound by, but most probably will be used during the celebration of Black History in the month of February. It will be used to help align the curriculum across the three first grade classrooms in our building.