Courtesy: Scholastic/New video/Weston Woods/New Kideo
Scholastic’s African-American heritage based box set, Stories About African American Heritage featuring MARCH ON! The Day My Brother Martin Changed The World is a wonderful box set. This triple-disc set is an excellent tool both inside the classroom and in the home, regardless of whether viewers are celebrating Black History month or simply to learn about an important part of African American history. The stories culled for this collection celebrate some of the most respected and notable figures in the African American community such as musicians Duke Ellington and Ella Fitzgerald. Also featured in this set are stories of famed civil rights figures Rosa Parks and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Viewers are even introduced to some of the most well known African-American stories. In all, this collection includes thirteen stories for audiences. As an added bonus, interviews with the sister of Dr. King, Dr. Christine King Farris and with author of Henry’s Freedom Box, Ellen Levine. There are even discussion questions included for students, children and parents both in the classroom and at home. And what Scholastic set would be complete with the optional Read-Along feature? That is here, too. It all comes together to make a box set that any viewer will appreciate and enjoy.
Stories About African American Heritage (as it will henceforth be known) opens fittingly with a collection of stories centered on two of the most well known figures in the Civil Rights movement; Rev. Dr. martin Luther King, Jr. and Rosa Parks. It opens with a story by Dr. King’s sister, Christine King Farris titled, March On! The Day My Brother Martin Changed The World. In this story, Mrs. Farris describes not only how her brother prepared for his landmark speech at the nation’s capitol, but the reaction of the people who were in attendance. The story is made even more interesting as it includes actual photos of Dr. King throughout the story as well as of those in attendance. Audiences also learn that Dr. King wasn’t the first minister in his family. His grandfather, A.D. Williams was also a minister. Just as interesting to learn is that while most people remember this moment in history for Dr. King’s speech, many may not know that Dr. King had also come to meet with Congressional leaders about passing a new law that would make whites and blacks truly equal. He hadn’t come just to give a speech. This story is more than just a story. It’s a trip back in time to a pivotal moment in history. It’s a trip that everybody young and old, white, black and otherwise should take at least once. While the story’s companion interview with Christine King Farris is dated (it mentions the monument built in his honor before it had been built), her interview helps to bring the story full circle and show just how significant his speech was and still is today to Americans as a whole.
The main feature on Dr. King is a very powerful and moving piece. It’s just one of the interesting pieces included in this set of thirteen stories. Also included as part of the set, is a feature on famed pianist/composer and band leader Edward Kennedy Ellington, A.K.A. Duke Ellington. Right from the start, audiences get a little history lesson on Ellington that’s easily accessible for all audiences. Whitaker reads to viewers that Ellington was born in 1899 in Washington, D.C. and that the name “Duke” was a name he brought on himself as he told people to call him by that name. Viewers will be interested to learn that Ellington apparently originally did not lean towards music. Rather, according to the story—narrated by veteran actor Forest Whitaker—Ellington originally was more interested in playing baseball than the piano. The story of how Duke was drawn back to the piano is just as entertaining as his early lack of interest in the instrument. The history lesson centering on Duke’s rise to stardom is equally easy to grasp for audiences. Being that it’s being read out loud, both parents and kids alike will easily remember the majority, if not all, of what they are taught. That’s really what makes this an especially nice addition to this set. Just as with the feature on Dr. King, it doesn’t come across as a history lesson. It comes across simply as a story about important historical figures since it’s coming across on the screen instead of in a book. The visual images will stimulate the eyes and mind, while the history will stick with viewers. As a result, it could help to foster an interest in music in younger viewers just as the piece on Dr. King could get young audiences interested in politics. Again, it’s one more wonderful tool for viewers both in the classroom and in the home.
The last disc in this set celebrating African American heritage focuses on the literature of a people. Just as religion, politics, and music are important parts of African American history, so is literature. In the set’s final disc, viewers get a healthy dose of literature from the African culture as it includes five classic stories anchored by the story, Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears. This tale tells the story of why mosquitoes buzz in people’s ears, just as the title notes. According to the story, the mosquito buzzes in people’s ears because it has a guilty conscience after causing the death of a baby owl. This concept might be a bit much for some younger audiences. So parents should use their own discretion with this story. That aside, it still is an interesting addition to this final disc’s collection of stories. Added to the set’s other stories, the entire collection comes together to make a set that again is a wonderful tool that any parent or educator will want to use every year any time of year, not just for Black History Month. It is available now and can be ordered online via New Kideo’s official website at http://www.newkideo.com/scholastic/the-heritage-collection/.
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