May Day greeted Kelly Cunnane and IRW Program Director Ruth Feldman with lots of spring sun and a great welcome at Vinalhaven School. Kelly is dynamic and shares many elements of her time in Kenya through her book, “For You Are a Kenyan Child,” and the many artifacts she has collected over the years. The kindergarten through grade 5 students gathered in the auditorium and learned Swahili (Hodi! Karibu!) about dress customs and all sorts of rituals and artifacts that are meaningful to Kenyan culture. The auditorium came to life as each section of the audience made the morning sounds of a Kenyan village; doves, roosters, cows, goats, sheep – all one big cacophony of lively village life.
In workshops throughout the day, kindergartners, first and second graders got a closer look at the sculptures and tools Kelly brought. They dressed up in the kangas and kikois and warrior robes — typical dress for Kenyans.
Grades 3-5 heard the story of “Kenyan Child” brought to life; as they saw it up on the screen, they heard the story behind the story from Kelly. Then it was their turn to develop a story based on a typical day in Kenya by imagining a typical day on their island. Kelly probed them to use descriptive words and to think about all of the various senses; the sounds, smells, visuals and people that one would meet on Vinalhaven.
“Being with the kids today and their energy made me feel in love with Kenya again, and with Maine,” Kelly said, and she stressed, “No matter how different we all are, we are all people with hearts, we all get into trouble, we all want to be loved, and play. Thank goodness for IRW making connections between writers, teachers, kids, families, and even countries, through books.”