Wednesday, April 12, 2017

#MMBBR #BlogTourHost One Good Thing About America by Ruth Freeman @HolidayHouseBks

Welcome to Day #3 of the One Good Thing About America Blog Tour!

To celebrate the release of One Good Thing About America by Ruth Freeman (3/14/17), blogs across the web are featuring exclusive content from Ruth and 10 chances to win a copy of One Good Thing About America, as well as a chance to win a Skype visit with Ruth in the Grand Prize Giveaway!

The Most Surprising Cultural Differences Anaïs Experiences
by Ruth Freeman

I am fascinated by the cultural differences I learn about through my students, partly because I discover things about my own culture I was unaware of. Actually, I wonder if we are all somewhat blind to our own cultures? In One Good Thing About America, Anaïs is confused by the guidance counselor’s lesson on personal space. This episode  was inspired by watching a kindergarten lesson when the guidance counselor used the same image of the goldfish and the goldfish bowl. I watched as a little girl from Southeast Asia put all her goldfish together in one bowl and was then told gently that this was the wrong answer. Her goldfish would be happier in its own bowl with plenty of PERSONAL SPACE.

Anaïs also learns about the concept of time (which can be very different in other parts of the world) when she waits for her new school bus. Her neighbor Mrs. Omar tells her and Mama that they have to be outside at 8:05 because “Americans are crazy about clocks and being ON TIME.” 

She, like many ELL students, is not used to being asked to “show your work” or “show your thinking.” In many parts of the world, there is an emphasis in education on rote memorization. In America (as in other countries) students are asked to figure out a problem on their own, to draw pictures or use various strategies to get to the solution. Getting the right answer is not always as important as understanding how to solve the problem. We want students to speak up, make eye contact and ask questions.

One issue that I wish I knew more about is how a brown-skinned girl like Anaïs feels as she settles in to our American culture. Being a brown skinned girl in Congo is different from being a brown-skinned girl in the US. I know children start to notice subtle differences between the white culture and the African-American culture. At one point in the story, Anaïs’ little brother, Jean-Claude, tells her white people speak English and brown people speak French which is true in his world view. A kindergartner once told me pretty much the same thing: that brown people speak Somali and white people speak English. Children  see things.

This is one reason I had Anaïs question Ms. Taylor about whether SHE would turn white in the winter like the Arctic animals they were studying! Our second graders study the Arctic and, while I don’t know for sure that this question has ever come up, I wonder if it runs through some of their minds.

It can be easy to get lost in the cultural differences and forget the cultural similarities. One of my students was excited the other day to see a big old office telephone in our classroom. “We had one of  those!” she said. Everyone she knows now has only cell phones. Students, when I bring out dice or playing cards during math class, will often tell me about playing with them “in my country.” And, of course, jump ropes and soccer balls are the same the world over.
Humor can be a huge way to bridge cultural differences. But humor can also be sophisticated. Being able to tell a joke and get people to laugh is a big step! It means you’ve learned a lot about the language, the culture and timing. When Anaïs tells a joke and the other students laugh (with her, not at her), it makes her feel so good!

One of my 4th graders loves being funny and he’s slowly getting better at telling jokes. A few weeks ago, when we were walking down the hall, he had a new joke he was bursting to tell. “Why can’t the chicken fly?” he asked our small group. None of us had a good answer, which was fine, because the boy really only wanted to get to his punch line. “BECAUSE HE’S TOO FAT!” He roared and laughed even while we didn’t…until he walked into the wall. So, he got all the laughter he wanted, only not at his joke. As I say, he’s learning, and one day soon, he’ll get there.

Stop by Kristi's Book Nook tomorrow for Day #4 of the tour!

Blog Tour Schedule:

April 10th – Geo Librarian
April 11thLate Bloomer's Book Blog
April 12th Mrs. Mommy Booknerd
April 13thKristi's Book Nook
April 14thLife Naturally
  April 17th – Books My Kids Read
April 18th – Chat with Vera
April 19th Word Spelunking
April 20th – Middle Grade Mafioso
April 21st – The Hiding Spot

Follow Ruth: Website | Facebook 
Publisher: Holiday House

ONE GOOD THING ABOUT AMERICA is a sweet, often funny middle-grade novel that explores differences and common ground across cultures. It's hard to start at a new school . . . especially if you're in a new country. Back home, Anaïs was the best English student in her class. Here in Crazy America she feels like she doesn't know English at all. Nothing makes sense (chicken FINGERS?), and the kids at school have some very strange ideas about Africa. Anaïs misses her family . . . so she writes lots of letters to Oma, her grandmother. She tells her she misses her and hopes the war is over soon. She tells her about Halloween, snow, mac 'n' cheese dinners, and princess sleepovers. She tells her about the weird things Crazy Americans do, and how she just might be turning into a Crazy American herself.

About the Author: Ruth Freeman grew up in rural Pennsylvania but now lives in Maine where she teaches students who are English language learners, including many newly arrived immigrants. She is the author of several acclaimed nonfiction picture books. One Good Thing About America is her first novel.

  • One (1) winner will receive a signed copy of One Good Thing About America for their personal collection, as well as a 30 minute Skype visit with Ruth Freeman to the school of their choice and a signed copy for the school's library.
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 (1) copy of One Good Thing About America US ONLY

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