Keeping Cultures Alive

I am in no way an expert in culturally sustaining pedagogy. Still, it is something that interests me and something that I would like to learn more about. Social justice isn’t just about accepting differences and fighting against inequality. It also involves making sure that cultural traditions, languages, and beliefs remain active and appreciated. One book that highlights the importance and challenge of keeping cultures alive is The Book Rescuer written by Sue Macy and illustrated by Stacy Innerst.

Language is at the heart of almost every culture. It is the way in which stories are passed down from generation to generation. It also has a tendency to be one of the first aspects of a culture that is lost due to assimilation. The Yiddish language was spoken by millions of Eastern European Jews and Jewish immigrants during the early 20th century. However, many of its speakers perished during the Holocaust and those Jews lucky enough to have escaped Europe did not always continue to speak Yiddish in their new homes.

Aaron Lansky began his quest to find books written in Yiddish at the age of 24. His travels and dedication to this cause resulted in the creation of the Yiddish Book Center in 1980. Thousands of books written in Yiddish have been saved because of Mr. Lansky’s work. The Book Rescuer introduces Yiddish and the Yiddish Book Center to young readers, Jews and non-Jews alike, who might become inspired to learn more about their own heritage after reading this picture book. It is also a wonderful introduction to the style of artist Marc Chagall.

Mr. Lansky wasn’t just trying to save a language, he was saving individual people’s stories as well as the stories of an entire people. The Book Rescuer is continuing that mission by introducing Mr. Lansky and the Yiddish language to a new generation. As educators, and particularly educators dedicated to social justice, we are committed to making sure that every story is shared, valued, and saved.

Teaching Tolerance Social Justice Standards:

Diversity 8: I want to know about other people and how our lives and experiences are the same and different.

Diversity 10: I find it interesting that groups of people believe different things and live their daily lives in different ways.

Common Core Standards:

RI.1- Ask and answer such questions as who, what, where, when, why, and how to demonstrate understanding of key details in a text.

RI.3- Describe the connection between a series of historical events, scientific ideas or concepts, or steps in technical procedures in a text.

RI.5- Know and use various text features (e.g., captions, bold print, subheadings, glossaries, indexes, electronic menus, icons) to locate key facts or information in a text efficiently.

Published by socialjusticeinchildrenslit

My name is Leah Cole and I was a teacher in Iowa for nine years. My passions for education, social justice, and children's literature led me to create this blog. Students are faced with issues of justice and fairness from the time they are very young. The Social Justice Standards developed by Teaching Tolerance help teachers to support the development of students who recognize and embrace their own identities while respecting and valuing those who are different. In this blog, I will attempt to identify and review books that support the social justice standards.

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