Susan Ramsay | Jun 10, 2015
Susan Ramsay, Early Literacy Specialist HFL&A
“Daddy look!” I turned from my squatted position in the strawberry patch toward the sound of an excited child’s voice close by. A beige sunhat bobbed slightly higher than the row of strawberry bushes, his fist clutching and waving a large heart-shaped berry. I scanned the field. In every direction there were child-sized heads with hats or ponytails poking like short sunflowers above the strawberry vines. The strawberry field was filled with children – children who were discovering, learning and enjoying the marvels of summer’s first strawberries.
My memories of spending time in strawberry patches are strong and cause me to recall a story about how the first strawberries came to be. At an Indigenous story walk at Napanee’s Lennox & Addington Resources for Children in May, Aboriginal Healthy Babies Worker Sarah Brown shared the Cherokee legend “The First Strawberries” with children and their parents. Children followed a trail of pictures indoors and outdoors as Sarah told the legend and as children re-enacted the feelings and actions of a man and woman who had grown angry with one another. The legend explains how the wise Sun created the very first eye-catching, fragrant, sweet strawberries from Mother Earth to help the man and woman resolve their differences. Sarah also taught us to make traditional strawberry juice and bannock which we shared together after our story walk.
From an early literacy perspective, oral storytelling helps children develop vocabulary, reading comprehension and narrative skills. The sharing of Aboriginal stories such as “The First Strawberries” inspires thinking, empathy and provides a chance to talk about values too.
Opportunities to hear or experience Indigenous oral stories are more frequent than you might think. With National Aboriginal Day celebrated on June 21 each year, special events are being planned throughout the region.
The Child Centre in Sharbot Lake is hosting an Aboriginal Day event on Wednesday June 17 at St. James Major Catholic Church Hall from 10am – 12 noon. Young children and their families will have the opportunity to experience storytelling, traditional food, craft, drumming and dancing. (To register for this free event, call 613-279-2244.)
In Kingston, National Aboriginal Day will be celebrated with Métis fiddlers, jingle dancer, water drummer, speakers and more on Sunday, June 21. This free event is open to the public at the Market Square, Lower Courtyard in Kingston between 11am and 2:30pm.
In North Hastings, Indigenous oral storytelling and activities will take place for school-age children at York River Public and Wilberforce Schools.
“Come Walk in My Moccasins” is a monthly e-newsletter that highlights Indigenous teachings, heroes, stories and more. Oral stories are often included in video format in these newsletters. To subscribe for free to Come Walk in My Moccasins e-newsletters, go to http://goo.gl/CDwHWM.
National Aboriginal Day is a celebratory day for seeking out the richness of Indigenous stories. Yet legends spoken or shared through children’s books are always worth discovering, even after the celebration has ended and ripe red berries no longer hang on strawberry patch vines.