Storytime for National Native American Heritage Month

Last week, my coworker Angela and I did an Interactive Musical Storytime featuring books by and about Native Americans in honor of National Native American Heritage Month. While we were planning it, I checked with a friend of mine, Laverne Pilcher-Villalobos, who is a member of the Omaha tribe. As a school librarian, she is also a passionate advocate for accurate representation of Native Americans in children’s books. She has recently compiled this wonderful virtual library of books, curriculum, and web sites for students and teachers: November American Indian Heritage Month Virtual Library

As with all of our programs right now, the storytime was held over Zoom, with families registering in advance. Here is what we did:

OPENING SONG: Do As I’m Doing

This has been our regular opening song for our Interactive Storytimes. It’s great because it allows the kids to suggest actions they would like to do. As usual, we had asked them to find a cloth or blanket to wave around, so for one verse, we waved the cloths. We also did a couple of verses when we jumped up and down (always a favorite!), and one where we danced. Here are the lyrics and chords, and a link to video if you would like the tune:

[C] Do as I’m doing, follow, follow [G7] me.

[C] Do as I’m doing, follow, [G7] follow [C] me.

[C] Follow, [G7] follow, [F] follow [C] me.

[F] Follow, [C] follow, [G7] follow [C] me.

Follow, [G7] follow, [F] follow [C] me,

[F] Follow, [C] follow, [G7] follow [C] me.

After our opening song, we talked briefly about Native American Heritage Month. I had originally asked Laverne if she had any songs she would recommend, but she was concerned that sharing a song from any one tribe might give the audience the impression that it was representative of all tribes and tribal languages. She emphasized that there are 574 federally recognized tribes in the United States, each with their own distinct language and culture. Instead, she shared this video of representatives from different tribes saying “I Love You” in their language, so I played a short clip for the kids:

I also shared the map of historic tribal lands from Native-Land.ca, which is an excellent visual of the sheer number of different tribes who have lived, and are currently living, in the United States: https://native-land.ca/

SONG: If All the Raindrops Were Lemon drops and Gumdrops

Since our first book was about food, we set the tone with one of my favorite food songs. We had the kids throw their cloths in the air and let them fall like raindrops, and suggest different foods to sing about. We had pizza, and strawberries, and strawberries with ketchup (!). As I mention in this video, it’s one of the easiest songs to play on the ukulele, because you only use two chords (C and G7):

[C] If all the raindrops were [G7] lemon drops and [C] gum drops,

Oh, what a rain it would [G7] be.

[C] I’d stand out- [G7] side with my [C] mouth open [G7] wide,

[C] “Ah, Ah, Ah, [G7] Ah, Ah, Ah, [C] Ah, Ah, Ah, [G7] Ah!”

[C] If all the raindrops were [G7] lemon drops and [C] gum drops,

Oh, what a [G7] rain it would [C] be!

BOOK: Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story by Kevin Maillard; illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal

We shared this ebook from Overdrive. Luckily, there were two copies available in library system, allowing both Angela and I to borrow one in case one of us lost our Internet connection (which happened before).

The book is a series of short sensory descriptions of a simple, but delicious food made and enjoyed by a number of different tribes, which also serves as a symbol of their adaptability and resilience. The author, Kevin Maillard, is a registered member of the Seminole Nation. This book was the perfect length for our audience (mostly toddlers and preschoolers), especially because it gives the kids the opportunity to mime the mixing, rolling, and flattening of the dough.

SONG: Five Days Old by Laurie Berkner

This is such a fun and lively song, and was a perfect segway for our next book:

[C] I’m sitting here, I’m [F] one day old, and [C] I’m sitting here I’m [F] two [G7] days [C] old.

[C] I’m sitting here, I’m [F] three days old, and [C] I’m sitting here I’m [F] four [G7] days [C] old.

[F] One [C] day, I’ll [F] be a [C] year, then [F] I’ll be [C] two, then [G7] three, then four.

[C] As for now I’m [F] sitting here, I’m [C] five days old and [F] no [G7] days [C] more!

I’m jumping up, I’m one day old…

I’m clapping my hands, I’m one day old…

I’m kicking my legs, I’m one day old…

Getting really tired, I’m one day old…

I’m jumping up, I’m one day old..

Book: First Laugh, Welcome Baby! By Rose Tahe and Nancy Bo Flood; illustrated by Jonathan Nelson

Angela read this sweet book (also available on Overdrive) honoring the First Laugh Celebration practiced by the Navajo (Diné) tribe. The story follows a family and all of their attempts to make their new baby laugh, so that he may be welcomed into the tribe. This is a wonderful book that portrays experiences all kids and families can relate to, while also demonstrating language and cultural elements unique to the Navajo.

SONG: Circle of the Sun by Sally Rogers

This was one of our two “play-along” songs, so we asked the kids to play something from around their house (pot lid and spoon, cereal box, etc.) or simply clap along. We also asked them for suggestions of things that children or babies might do for the first time. We had “Babies laugh their first laugh,” “Children all go dancing” and “Children all go jumping.” Here’s a recording of the original song:

[C] Babies are born in a circle of the sun,

Circle of the sun on their [G7] birthing [C] day.

[C] Babies are born in a circle of the sun,

Circle of the sun on their [G7] birthing [C] day.

CHORUS

[C] Clouds to the North, Clouds to the South,

[F] Wind and [C] rain to the [F] East and the [G7] West,

[C] Babies are born in a circle of the sun,

Circle of the sun on their [G7] birthing [C] day.

ENDING SONG: You Are My Sunshine by Jimmie Davis & Charles Mitchell (or possibly by Oliver Hood)

Incidentally, I noticed that Laverne Pilcher-Villalobos uses the term “American Indian” instead of “Native American,” and I asked her which term was preferred. Here’s what she said:

First, not all American Indians think alike and some don’t care how they are addressed or about stereotypes. However, those of us in the education or libraries do care and a lot. If someone mentions their native background to you, the best way to address them is by asking “what tribe or what nation are you from?” There are approximately 600 federally recognized tribes and each one has its own language and culture… To clump everyone together would be equivalent to saying “European” instead of Italian, Irish, Spanish, French, Swedish or what have you. Using Native American or American Indian is appropriate but the better way to use generic terms is using “Indigenous” to America.

Laverne Pilcher-Villalobos

Do you have favorite books by Native American authors? Please share them in the comments.