Friday, August 13, 2010
Little House on the Prairie: another look
While there are many in my field who are staunchly anti-Little House, I'd like to take the middle path. Truly, these books are a slice of Americana. They are certainly a part of the American social lexicon, and an excellent introduction to chapter books for budding elementary readers. Girls, especially, get hooked on the series and before they know it, they've read 8 chapter books and are building fluency to boot. They take us back to a simpler time and place, where a piece of candy in a Christmas stocking was a marvel, and a hand-sewn doll was treasured and adored. That's nice.
So, what's my recommendation for taking this middle path? Read the Little House books, but talk about them with your kids. Talk about racism. Talk about westward expansion, and what that meant to the native peoples that were displaced. And while you're at it, read some books from the Native American perspective. My favorite? The Birchbark House, by Louise Erdrich.
In The Birchbark House, we get to see the same slice of time (1840's) through the eyes of a 7-year old Ojibwa girl named Omakayas. Many of the same themes are present: family life, living off the land, harsh winters, and a brave little girl facing it all. The Porcupine Year is the follow-up.