Monday, April 02, 2007

Reader's Theater: Cynthia Leitich Smith's INDIAN SHOES

"Reader's Theater" is growing in popularity in school classrooms. In one form, a story from a favorite book is written up like a script. Children are assigned parts, and they read from the script. It adds to their experience with the story.

Over the weekend, I read Cynthia Leitich Smith's blog Cynsations and saw that a colleague, Sylvia Vardell, has written a reader's theater script based on a story in Cynthia's book, Indian Shoes. The script is called "Don't Forget the Pants." It has three speaking parts: Ray, Grampa Halfmoon, Jonah, Best Man, and the Narrator.

I love Indian Shoes. The book is actually six short stories about Ray, a Cherokee-Seminole kid who lives in Chicago with his grandfather. Smith weaves in things that will have special appeal to kids in Chicago. Ray and Grampa, for example, "rode the rattling elevated train to Wrigley Field and watched the Cubs take on the St. Louis Cardinals," but it also tugs on kids who know life in Oklahoma, where Ray's Aunt Wilhelmina is.

And, it provides the opportunity to talk about why Ray lives in Chicago instead of Oklahoma... For readers unfamiliar with Native history, there was a government program in the 1950s designed to break-down Native culture by moving families to the big city. Called "Relocation," American Indians were were promised job training and "the American dream." But like most government programs designed to assimilate American Indians, it feel short. Families were more or less on their own. Support was non-existent, conditions were harsh. As a result, Native families came together in all the major cities where they were relocated, forming American Indian Centers. There's one in Chicago. You can visit their website and learn about it here.

(Note on Sylvia Vardell: She is a professor at Texas Women's University. Her blog, "Poetry for Children" is a great resource for poetry for children and young adults. Her entry on March 24th, for example, included teaching strategies. (Note: she doesn't blog specifically about American Indian poetry.)

1 comment:

Karen Saunders said...

Wow! Thanks so much for posting about this. I just bought a copy of Indian Shoes yesterday, thinking how much several of the kids in my class, and several more who I'll be teaching next year, will like it. Now to find the Readers Theater version of one of the stories is doubly exciting. This makes me think I'm going to get multiple copies of Indian Shoes and plan to use it for lit circles, with the Readers Theater script as a culminating activity.