Multicultural Picture Book

By Amanda Ward

Henry's Freedom Box-A true story from the Underground Railroad

By Ellen Levine and Illustrated by Kadir Nelson was published in 2007 by Scholastic Press

This read aloud is planned for 4th graders. "Henry's Freedom Box" is a picture book about a man named Henry Brown who was born a slave. Henry shipped himself in a box north so he could escape slavery. "Henry's Freedom Box" won the Caldecott Honor Award in 2008.

This picture book is unique because it is based on a true story. Most picture books are sweet and innocent for children but this book shows children the real difficulties slaves had to go through. This book is dramatic and will keeps students engaged while reading it.

Henry's Freedom Box By Ellen Levine
Kadir Nelson


The UNDERGROUND RAILROAD, a term that was used during the 1840s to designate a system of secret networks of escape routes and hiding places used by runaway slaves seeking safety as they made their way from the southern slave states to freedom in the North. To aid these runaways, sympathetic Americans served as "CONDUCTORS" along these land and sea routes stretching out of the South through the North and into Canada.

Procedures for implementing the read aloud and vocabulary presentation

I will start off by telling the students "I am reading them a book called "Henrys Freedom Box. This is a true story of a man named Henry Brown who escaped slavery by shipping himself North." First I will ask the students a question before I start reading to activate their background knowledge. The question is, what do you know about the Underground Railroad? After they discuss the question I will say, "Before I start reading I want you to listen for 2 words that you need to know, one is underground railroad and the other is conductor." During the story I will stop at certain places and ask questions refering to the book. One of the questions I will ask is, "it says Henry didn't know when his birthday is, why doesn't he know? How would you feel if you never knew your birthday? Another question I will ask is, what are some of the things slaves were not allowed to do?" Another question I will ask during the reading is, "Why did Dr. Smith help Henry?". After the story is finished, I will ask the students one more question, what did Henry win at the end?" After the students have discussed this questions I will have the students make a box. This is their "freedom box." "I want you to image if you were a slave who wanted to be free, and you had the courage to mail yourself North, what would you bring in your box? You can only bring three items with you. Remember you do not want anyone to hear you while you are in shipment so your items need to be small and useful. Henry took biscuits, water and a small tool, but you can bring anything you think would help you. After you have made your box, I want you to draw your items inside of it. Once that is done I want you to write your vocabulary words from earlier on the side of the box. I want you to write the word, the definition and a sentence for each word. Once you have finished your box, the things that go in your box and your vocabulary, I want you to write a paragraph over why you chose those three items. You need to explain if you were mailing yourself, how would you use your items and what the importance of each item is." After the students are done writing their paragraph I will have the students share their box with their table groups, and then I will have the students share to the class one thing they put in the box.

Written reflection following the read aloud book talk/vocabulary presentation

Why was this particular book selected? How did it “match” the funds of knowledge of this particular class/group of students?

- I chose this book because my CT suggested it. She said that they just learned about slavery and the Underground Railroad so it would be a good review for them. When I read the book, asked questions about the book and about the vocabulary the students knew a lot about slavery and the Underground Railroad. I think since they had background knowledge it gave them more understanding of the subject.

What were the strengths of the read aloud/the picture book/vocabulary teaching presentation?

-The students really enjoyed the book and the activity. I learned the students like listening along to a story. They also like making crafts so they enjoyed making a box. The reflection at the end was really useful because some students didn't bring items that would help them during their shipment. So this made them realize what would have been useful and what wouldn't have been useful.

What would I need to do differently next time?

-During the vocabulary presentation I wrote the vocabulary words on the white board. Then I had the students discuss them in their table groups. Once the students came up with the definitions I had them share what each group thought the words meant. Once we all came up with a common definition I had them write it on their box. But I never wrote the definition on the white board. I had several students who couldn't write or spell and if I would have wrote the definition on the white board they could have copied it from the board on to their box. Instead I worked with them one on one and wasn't able to direct the rest of the class. So next time I will write the word and definition on the white board for everyone to see.

-Another thing I would change is that I read to the students while they were sitting in their desks. Next time I would prefer them sitting in a group on the carpet with me reading to the group. Since they were all in their desks I had to walk around the classroom and it took more time than it should have.

Respond to the following open-ended statement: Implementing multicultural

children’s literature that is culturally and linguistically diverse relative to my elementary students has helped me…

-This made me realize that we need to include all cultures in our classrooms. If we just teach about majorities then the students will only learn about one culture, but if we teach about many cultures then they become culturally diverse. This helps them connect with their friends and classmates. It also helps the teacher get to know the students better. In my future classroom I will include activities that focus on many cultures. I want my students to become aware of all cultures and doing activities that focus on different cultures will help them with becoming culturally diverse.