Discussion Guide for "Jingle Dancer"

Discussion Guide for Jingle Dancer

Picture books are generally read aloud to a child or group of children. A best practice for reading to children is for you to read the book yourself before reading to a child or group of children. This gives you the opportunity to think about the content of the story and the knowledge of the child or children you will read to. Are there things in the story you’re unfamiliar with? Are there things the children may need to know before they hear the story read to them? 

For example, near the end of the story, Jenna and her grandmother work on Jenna’s “dance regalia.” It is common to see the word “costume” used to describe the items that Native people wear, but “costume” denigrates the significance of the items. In fact, Native people use a word or words in their own language to describe the items they wear for ceremonies and dances. In English, the word “regalia” is a more appropriate word choice than “costume.” Think about items in your own family that carry significance and talk with the child about why it is important to use the right words for items. 

  • Before reading Jingle Dancer with your child, read the Author’s Note and Glossary in the back of the book. Study the information Smith provides. Look up the Muscogee (Creek) Nation’s website and become familiar with it and their history. Show the child a photograph of the author, Cynthia Leitich Smith. Emphasize present tense verbs as you talk about her, her nation, and her story about Jenna. 
  • If the child you are reading the book to is aware of the concept of elections, voting and citizenship, talk with the child about Jenna (the main character in Jingle Dancer) and her citizenship with the Muscogee (Creek) Nation. If possible, show the child a map of the United States. Point to the current location of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, where they were, historically, and where they are today. 
  • Help the child you are reading to relate to the story. You could ask the child to talk about special things they do with their family and how their family helps them get ready to for those things, or stories adults tell to children. In Jingle Dancer, Jenna’s aunt tells her a Muscogee (Creek) story about Bat. 
  • In the story, Jenna’s neighbor makes fry bread. See the article at Indian Country Today on the history of fry bread. It includes a recipe. You can make it — but take care with the skillet of hot grease. http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2016/02/08/frybread-101-basic-recipe-and-timeline-163305 
  •  Together, watch a video of girls doing a Jingle Dance. One option is the Tiny Tot Girls video from the 2013 Gathering of Nations Pow Wow. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BwTNbdfn4sA
  •  See the photos of the Chicago T7 Native Sisters Presents, Native youth who publicly perform Jingle Dancer as a reader's theater. https://www.facebook.com/ChicagoT7/photos/a.10152589336960307.954377.326100110306/10152589338035307/?type=3&theater

Cynthia Leitich Smith
Photo by Sam Bond