I’ve talked a lot about the benefits of teaching with multicultural literature: it can transport us to another time and place, kids learn universal human emotions and feelings, quality multicultural books help to dispel negative stereotypes while teaching tolerance and respect, characters can encourage pride in kids’ cultural heritage, and in the case of the book I’m reviewing today- Bijoy and the Big River– multicultural books can teach us about kids around the world, especially when paired with extension activities.
Bijoy and the Big River, by Meera Siriam and Praba Ram is part of the Where I Live series, which showcases children living in different environments. Other books in the series include Postcards from Ura, Aiyappan and the Magic Horse, and My Friend, the Sea. The story follow a young boy home to where his father raises eri silkworms and his mother spins yarn. Bijoy lives in a village near the Burha Luid, which means Grand Old River. He enjoys swimming in the water, playing on the banks of the river with his friends, and watching the fishermen. Riding in a bamboo canoe, and then a large ferry, Bijoy gets to accompany his father to the weaving village, where yarn is transformed into silk.
Before reading, ask your children to look at the cover and pictures in the book.
- What does the title tell us?
- What do you think the book will talk about?
- What do you know about rivers? For example, what kind of animals live in the water? What could rivers be used for?
- What do you know about silkworms? Do you know how they produce silk?
Now read the book. Think of any questions you have, or areas you would like to learn more about.
Think about the following questions, and see if you can answer them after reading Bijoy and the Big River.
- In what ways is the Burha Luit- the big river- important to Bijoy’s family and his village?
- Why is the silk made from eri silkworms known as “Peace Silk?”
- What sort of transportation did Bijoy and his father use to travel to the weaving village?
- What sights and wildlife did Bijoy observe on his trip down the river?
- What sort of food did Bijoy enjoy in the book?
- What was the author’s purpose in writing this book?
Extend your Learning
Here is a wonderful page about the life cycle of eri silkworms, with close-up photographs.
Bijoy visits the village of Sualkuchi, India, which is the largest village in Assam and also a “weaver’s paradise.” This video shows the process of collecting and processing the silk from the cocoons all the way to the silk weavings.
The following video is a short ad for a a women’s coop, but nicely describes how eri silk is known as “Peace Silk.”
What extension activities do you use when reading multicultural books with your kids?