While browsing for inspiration for how other mamas rowed this book, I was surprised how many were hesitant to read Who Owns the Sun? to their children. Yes, it deals with slavery, which can be a painful concept… but young children are especially curious and accepting and what better time to teach them about something that can be a difficult topic?
This is a beautiful story about a young boy who looks up to his father and learns that there are many things in the world that are too wonderful to be owned. When he discovers that another human owns his father – and himself - he has a hard time accepting that fact.
Since slavery was prominent in the southern states we focused on those and honed in on Mississippi. We located them on the map, colored them in on a picture of the US, did a little state bird and flower cut-and-paste as well as a few activities from our state activity book. The kiddos got a kick out of my spelling “Mississippi” really fast. I really wanted to make Missippi Mud Pie but decided against it; why do I always gravitate towards desserts?
I used a couple books on slavery to talk about the topic; one of them a history book with actual photos and another a story written from the perspective of a slave. As we went along I asked Gwen what she thought, told her what was happening in the pictures, and explained how some people thought black people weren’t equals. So she wouldn’t associate all whites with being the “bad men” I explained that there were many who didn’t agree with the practice of slavery, and there were those who risked their lives to help slaves escape.
It can be difficult trying to understand how any one person could “own” another, so I related it to how there are always people who will look down on someone else for one reason or another – making fun of them for being different or having a disability, being outright mean or thinking they’re better than they are. We talked about how we may have differences from one another, but we’re all equal and special in God’s eyes.
The boy in the story looks up to his father and loves him very much, so we talked about ways we can show love to other people.
The book is full of questions that the boy asks his father – “Who owns the sun?”, “Who owns the birds?” and so forth. We did a little punctuation activity, identifying sentences that should have question marks and those that should have periods.
Since all the questions can be made into a list, we made a list of our own of “things too wonderful to be owned” – the sun, birds, flowers, rain, wind.
The illustrator uses many bright colors in the pictures and the kiddos drew their own bright red, yellow and orange suns. We also made a paper bag tree using tissue paper the colors of the flower blossoms (although it looks more like a Fall tree to me!).
Once of the ways the boy in the story shows his love for his father is by bringing him lunch every day. His mother would prepare it in the big kitchen and the boy would run across the fields with the lunch pail in his hands.
We talked about nutrition and the food groups and figured out what the father could add to his meal to make it more nutritious. We did the same thing with our meals for the day; we might not always eat from every food group for each meal, but as long as we’re having a variety every day you’re on the right track.
Since there are some things we don’t have – like regular milk – I explained how we don’t agree with everything that we’re told is good for us.
We used a little mini book to talk about the sun. Gwen was surprised to learn that it’s actually a star and she enjoyed tracing all the facts. We talked about why we need the sun, and I showed them a couple plants in the house - one thriving in a sun-filled spot and another not doing so well because it doesn’t get much light (guess I should move it). We also did a little cut-and-paste minibook about weather; Gwen told me her favorite thing about each season.
*See my FIAR Pinterest board for more inspiration.
From Slave Ship to Freedom Road
Slavery and the Underground Railroad: Bound for Freedom
Bread and Jam for Frances
Sunshine Makes the Seasons
Day Night, Night Light
I don’t always remember to write down the books we’ve checked out of the library so my list won’t always be completely accurate. For instance, we read a couple more food stories and books about the sun and weather, but I can’t remember which ones! You can easily make your own go-along book list by searching in Amazon’s children’s books for a specific topic then requesting those books from your library. I compile most of my reading list this way.