Before we explore The Season for Special Days, I would like to remind those of you who were reading Every Day Is Storytime in September and announce to those of you who are new to my blog: This fall I published my first picture book, Miss Lucy Jane.
The text is a lyrical poem about a fanciful girl who creates whimsical adventures for every day of one wonderful week. The imaginative and inviting illustrations are by my cousin Emmeline Hall and include a mouse hiding in each scene and clues in every picture that lead you to the next adventure. I wrote Miss Lucy Jane for you to read aloud so that you can best enjoy all the rhythms and rhymes. The book is available on Amazon or from me at email@example.com. Emmeline and I have had great feedback from people of all ages from two to eighty-four! One reader wrote: "It is just so much fun!" Another reader wrote: "We love to look at the pictures over and over." One grandmother shared: "Miss Lucy Jane is the kind of book I was always looking for our children. I am glad to be able to read it to my grandchildren!"
It is December, almost winter and The Season for Special Days for people all around the world. When I was doing library preschool storytimes, I searched for an interesting way to teach young children about a variety of holidays without endorsing one culture over another. I discovered a wonderful set of traditions common to at least four holidays celebrated at this time of year and found books to share and wrote songs or chants to go with them. I hope you can find ways to use these ideas in your home, school or library.
I usually offer a BOOKLIST at this point in the blog but will, for this subject, just include the books that I used for each explored holiday and in conjunction with my song or chant. Gather up your own holiday books and create a cozy reading corner. Ask your librarian for suggestions for other books about any holidays and celebrations throughout the year and around the world.
Start your day with a good book. Take turns choosing the first book of the day. When you get to the end of the week, talk about the books you have shared and find out if there is a favorite choice and read that one again!! Study the illustrations and find out if everyone has a favorite picture. If you are reading books about celebrations that are not a part of your family traditions, talk about what you find most interesting in another culture's holiday.
HANUKKAH, CHRISTMAS, KWANZAA
The celebration of each one of these holidays involves the traditions of the gathering of family and friends, music special to the holiday, food special to the holiday, gift giving, candles and special lights, expressions of thankfulness, and the assurance and sharing of love. The books I used feature these elements of the celebrations. The songs and chants that I wrote and taught with hand movements were approved by friends from each culture represented. For each holiday, I made a felt set of candles and built a picture on the flannelboard to represent each celebration.
HANUKKAH Book: Eight Days of Hanukkah by Harriet Ziefert
Felt set: a menorah candleholder, 9 candles to match the candles in the book, 9 yellow flames so we could add a candle each day and light it as we read the book. Each day of celebration shown in the book ends with "It's Hanukkah tonight!" Everyone says those words together. At the end of the book, we sang to the tune of the old counting song, One Little, Two Little.... (or make up your own tune) as we counted the candles on the felt menorah we created. Count on your fingers as you sing.
LIGHTING MY MENORAH
One little, two little, three little candles,
four little, five little, six little candles,
seven little, eight little, nine little candles
lighting my menorah
on this Hanukkah!
CHRISTMAS Book: The Carolers by Georgia Guback
Felt set: an advent wreath of green felt leaves, 3 purple candles, 1 pink candle, 1 white candle, and 5 yellow flames. As I read this book showing carolers visiting many households in their town, I added a candle around the wreath after each scene, saving the white candle for the center of the wreath. As the carolers start to the house, everyone says "Merry Christmas!" Then we "lit" the candles and sang a song I wrote for our familu in honor of the Christmas tradition of putting a candle in every window to welcome visitors. This song makes a wonderful round. Make up your own tune or speak the words in a chant! If you have enough older people in your group to quickly learn the words, try it as a round: one half of the group starts and the second half starts when the first group begins the third line. Go through the words twice. It is great fun to do and to hear!!
Hold up one finger on each hand for candles and wave them to the rhythm for the first two lines. Hold your arms out to your sides and slowly bring them together to cross over your heart.
CHRISTMAS CANDLES ROUND
Candles, candles, light and bright.
Candles, candles in the night.
Let the people know that they
are welcome on this Christmas Day!
copyright 1974 Jane Willis Johnston
KWANZAA Book: Seven Candles for Kwanzaa by Andrea Pinkney Davis
Felt set: a kinara candleholder, 3 red candles, 3 green candles, 1 black candle, 7 yellow flames.
I read the book and placed the candles on the kinara to match the sequence explained and shown in the pictures. At the beginning of each tradition shown, everyone says "Habari gani? Habari gani?" which means "What's the good news?" in Swahili. After we learned about this celebration of the African-American culture, we learned this chant. Keep a rhythm going by patting your knees twice, then clapping twice. PAT PAT, CLAP CLAP throughout the chant, finishing with your hands over your head.
KWANZAA CANDLES CHANT
Kwanzaa candles bright
lighting up the night,
Shining through the day
show us all the way.
Black and green and red
help us look ahead.
copyright 2000 Jane Willis Johnston
SONG: CELEBRATE TOGETHER
This is getting too long, I know, but this is probably my chance to share these things with the world. This last song (again, make up your own tune) is written to be a circle dance. Hold hands in a circle and alternate going to the right for one verse, then to the left for the next. For the Chorus each time, move into the middle of the circle and hold hands up and touch, then move back into your circle.
Come gather friends and family now,
let's sing a song together.
We've so much to be thankful for,
let's celebrate together!
Come gather 'round the candles now,
let's keep our faith together.
Come gather 'round the table now,
let's eat a meal together.
Come gather 'round the circle now,
let's give our gifts together.
Come gather on this holiday,
let's share our love together.
Be sure to tell each other lots of good holiday stories from your family traditions! Thank you all for being a part of my life and allowing me to share my gifts with you.