Monday, March 31, 2008

Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt

Link to where you can buy this book:
Summary: This is a story about an African American girl's escape from slavery on a Southern plantation. When the rigors of cotton-field labor overwhelm Clara, a kindly woman she calls Aunt Rachel trains the girl to be a seamstress in the main house. Like most slaves, Clara longs for freedom and yearns to be reunited with her mother. Becoming proficient in her sewing, she begins in her off hours to put together a map-quilt, stitching in any information she can get from overheard conversations about an escape route to Canada. 

Reflection: I think that this book is very sweet, with well developed characters and a victorious story-line but I don't think that it correctly portrays the life of a slave. All of the pictures are painted with very bright colors and it makes it seem like it was easy for slaves to escape from the south. I think that this is an appropriate book for younger students learning about slavery because it doesn't include many gruesome details and it allows you to sympathize with the characters a lot.

Book Use/Activities/Curricular Units: To help your students sympathize with the characters, you could present a concept/imagine lesson.. Each concept is paired with an imagination activity for students so the teacher reads the concept aloud to students and then offers a brief period for questions. Next, read the imagining exercise and last, allow students to share imaginings and realizations with the class.
For example:
Concept: Clara is separated from her mother before her twelfth birthday. During the times of slavery, it was quite common for the children of slaves to be taken away from their parents. Many slave children were taken away while still an infant. (This practice of separation was used to alienate slaves, deprive them of an emotional support system, and make them feel less human.)
Imagine: that when you get home from school one day, someone takes you away to a place far away from your family and tells you that you must stay at the faraway place forever. Imagine what it might feel like thinking that you will never see your family again. [Pause while students imagine. The thoughts you have may be very similar to the thoughts of Clara and many slave children of the past.]

Domains of Social Justice: This book offers a perfect opportunity for teachers to discuss AAVE (African American Vernacular English) with their older students. AAVE is also popularly known as Ebonics. AAVE is a distinct language variety with specific rules regarding grammar and word pronunciation. Because all of your students are either speakers of AAVE or come in contact with speakers of AAVE, it is important to affirm the idea that AAVE is not a sub-standard variation of English. Rather, AAVE is a linguistic variation that developed in specific socio-cultural conditions and is not related to one’s academic abilities. Many children that learn AAVE in their home learn Standard English as a second language once they begin school. For further reading before lecturing on this concept, you may wish to read the following web page that includes a description of the opposing opinions regarding AAVE:

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