Cultural Community Story Boxes

An Introduction


María Acevedo & Kathy Short, 2012

Cultural Community Story Boxes

The purpose of this engagement is to explore diversity in the world by sharing stories and artifacts that reflect local and global communities and cultures. We want to support young children in becoming aware of the similarities and differences shared by these cultural communities. The following strategies are some of the ways in which the Cultural Community Story Boxes can be explored with young children. We want to avoid portraying cultures and communities as “all the same” or “exotic” and so spaces need to be provided for children to identify their connections as they move towards exploring differences.

Exploring Cultural Community Story Boxes in the classroom:

  1. Inflatable globe: Invite children to name the city where they live and identify it on the globe. Explore the distance between Tucson/Arizona/United States and the country or city where the books from the Story Boxes are set. Connect the concept of distance with transportation by inviting children to brainstorm ways in which they could visit the new country/city or vice versa.
  2. Free exploration of books and artifacts: Integrate the Story Boxes into free exploration time. Identify the space in your classroom that would best fit this purpose. You might notice that some of the books would fit well within specific exploration areas, such as the kitchen/house center or the block center.
  3. Read Aloud: Some of the books will connect with other themes that are important in your curriculum, such as community, growing, cause and effect, or family. You could read these books to the whole class, small groups or individually as a way to provide different perspectives on the theme.
  4. Discussion based on connections, similarities and differences: We noticed that children initially share connections and similarities while reading or browsing books. In order to pay attention to differences they benefited from specific questions that became a routine to address both similarities and differences:
    1. What do you notice about this child?
    2. How is this child the same as you? How is his ____ like yours? Is your _____ similar to the one in the book or picture?
    3. How is this child different than you? How is his _____ different than yours?

Beginning with similarities provides young children with a known space to explore their connections. Young children naturally focus on connections and we put our major focus on those connections but we also want them to explore what makes other cultural communities unique as well.

  1. Learning Centers: Creating learning centers with activities based on the books allows young children time to explore concepts and ideas from the books and artifacts in the Story Boxes.
  2. Documentation: Take photos and/or record students’ ideas and brainstorming as they respond to the books. Display the pictures and their words on a chart and invite children to interact with the documentation. New ideas, narratives and questions will emerge from this reflective process and can be recorded on the chart.
  3. Audit Trail or Learning Wall (Vázquez, 2004): Create a public display of artifacts (photos of children, book covers, quotes, drawings, etc) that represents students and teachers’ thinking about the stories and artifacts in the boxes. Create an trail on the wall that shows how these connections unfold over time and how one response leads to another engagement. The audit trail could also show how the books and their responses connect with other themes or units important in the classroom.
  4. Families and school community: Invite others to explore the Story Boxes by informing them about the stories and artifacts that have been explored, and by creating spaces for them to share their own stories, wonders, and perhaps artifacts, related to the Story Boxes.

Possible Engagements with the Cultural Community Story Boxes

The following examples focus on sharing stories and exploring similarities and differences with books from several of the Story Boxes. Note that even though various elements of literacy are embedded in these engagements, the main purpose is to develop children’s understandings of culture and community.


Book: Clementina’s Cactus, by Ezra Jack Keats

Invite your students to record a collective story for this wordless book, emphasizing the setting. Explore multiple photos of cactus and flowers from the Sonoran desert, and record students’ narratives about times and places where they have seen different kinds of cactus.

Book: Roxaboxen, by Alice McLerran

Outdoor walk. Collect desert materials (black pebbles, white stones, pieces of pottery, desert glass, seeds, sticks, dead flowers, etc.). Encourage children to play with those materials. How can we play with these objects?

East Africa

Book: For You Are a Kenyan Child, by Kelly Cunnane

Discuss the first two pages of the book in which they portray the huts in the villages. Invite children to compare their own houses with those in the book. Children can also draw their house.

Book: New Shoes for Helen, by Ifeoma Onyefulu

Create a dramatic play center for selling shoes. Incorporate the ideas from the market in the book as well as the kinds of stores where your students usually buy their shoes, such as Walmart, Target or a thrift store.


Book: What Can You Do with a Rebozo?, by Carmen Tafolla

Read the book to the children while they interact with the rebozo. Does anybody in your family have a rebozo? How else can we use a rebozo? The story also emphasizes the idea of children playing with their parents’ clothing. Children can discuss how they play with their family members’ clothing. Collect adults’ clothing in order to encourage children to play with these materials as they share their stories.

Book: Playing La Lotería/El juego de la lotería, by René Colato-Laínez

Invite the children to play La Lotería. Discuss ideas and questions about the use of Spanish. Encourage children to share the board games that they enjoy playing at home and how are those similar and different to La Lotería. Bring a board game from a different country to expose the children to different languages, but also the common experience of play. For example, Yute (Korea).


Book: Bee-Bim-Bop, by Linda Sue Park

Explore and discuss the illustrations of the book, especially those that represent the utensils used by the Korean family during dinner. Introduce plastic chopsticks for children and after modeling how to hold and use them, allow children to pretend that they are eating with chopsticks. You can utilize cotton balls as “rice”, and other food items from the kitchen area. Encourage children to share the kind of utensils they use and practices that they follow when they eat at home.

Book: Sori’s Harvest Full Moon, by Lee, Uk-Bae

a) Give pretend money to the students and create a big bus by lining up several chairs. Invite children to share stories about visiting relatives. How do they get to their relatives’ houses?

b) Mirror: What things do they like doing with their family and relatives? Invite children to create a body movement to explain what they do, while the rest of the students imitate the posture or action. Each student will have a turn.


Book: We Are Cousins/Somos primos

Place playhouses, toy people, and different kinds of puppets in the center of your circle mat/carpet. Invite the children to use these props to act out activities that their families do together. You might join the play and pretend to be a child, letting the children pretend to be the grownups.

Book: ¡Fiesta!

Share with your students several photos and/or magazine pictures of families and friends celebrating birthdays in different ways. Include pictures of families who do not celebrate birthdays, but spend time together in different ways. You can include pictures from your own childhood or that of your own children/neighbors and/or their cousins. Invite children to share stories about how they celebrate, drawing their cousins and the things they like doing together. Graph the favorite activities your students like doing together and discuss how those are similar and different from those in the book.

West Africa

Book: We Are Going on a Lion Hunt

Place different toy animals in your circle. Include African animals, those that might be in Sonoran desert and domestic animals. Invite children to share the kinds of animals that they have seen in or around their homes. What kinds of animals have they hunted or chased? What animals can they catch?

Book: Deron Goes to Nursery School

Invite children to talk about their classroom’s daily routines. How are those similar to Deron’s nursery school? How are they different? Encourage children to create a pretend scenario in which Deron visits your classroom and school. What activities would they share with Deron? Students can also imagine they are visiting Deron’s classroom and school. What activities would they like Deron to share with them?

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