My son, Idris, was struggling with reading at the beginning of this school year. We’ve been working hard to improve his reading skills. He is highly motivated most of the time and he’s made great strides since the fall. Lately, he’s been a little resistant to embrace our reading time, especially on long weekdays.
Over the weekend, we had some time and I really wanted him to get enthralled in a great book. I considered taking him to Barnes and Nobel to buy a new book. We saw Star Wars last weekend so I thought about getting a Star Wars book. Instead, I decided to shop our bookshelves. In celebration of Black History Month, I pulled a few books that celebrated black culture, history or featured black characters.
After I pulled an armful, I let him choose which one we’d read together. He chose Anansi the Spider a tale from the Ashanti. I read it to him when he was a little younger, but I’m not sure he remembered. I recalled my childhood memories of Anansi. My parents, aunties, and uncles would tell stories about him. I was excited to share the story with him again.
We read the tale of Kwaku Anansi and how his 6 brave spider sons helped save him from trouble. I proudly listened to him read the passages that would have stumped him a few months ago. As he read, I realized a multitude of connections the story had to him, me, and our family history.
Idris’ middle name is Kweku and it’s Ghanaian for a son born on Wednesday. Kweku and Kwaku are so close spelling that we were intrigued. After reading, we decided to Google the meaning of Kwaku. We learned that Kweku is an alternate spelling of Kwaku and the names have the same meaning. He was thrilled to see one of his unique names in a book and that it was the name of the main character was an added bonus!
I told Idris why we decided to give him a Ghanaian middle name although both sides of the family come from Jamaica. Years ago, one of my maternal aunts researched our ancestry and discovered that part of our roots are in the Ashanti tribe (as is the case with many Jamaicans). My mother's great great grandmother was Ashanti and likely brought to Jamaica from Ghana as a slave.
Idris had questions about the author of the book. He wanted to know when he wrote the story. I explained to him that this was a very old story – older than the author. This was created by the Ashanti people and the author, Gerald McDermott, recorded it. We searched the copywrite page for the date of publication. It was 1972, the year I was born. Idris knows that I’m 43 and shouted out, “That was 43 years ago!”
There was so much wrapped up in this little picture book. What started as the hope to find an interesting book turned into so much more. Idris rated the book 5 stars!
Carol Higgins-Lawrence wrote her first story at the age of five. Her father paid her a quarter for it and she's been writing ever since. She's taken a variety of courses in writing for children. Multicultural perspectives are of particular interest to her. Carol is of Jamaican descent and was born and raised in Canada. She has a BA in Communications and Sociology and she has completed coursework towards a MA in TESOL. She has worked as a literacy educator for the past 15 years. She currently lives in Brooklyn, NY with her husband and two young children. You can visit her website at carolhl.weebly.com
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