Foundational Texts for Cultural Literacy

One of the problems I encounter with teaching allusion is the amount of cultural literacy required for students to pick up on allusions. If you don’t know the Prometheus myth, then you don’t get fire. If you don’t know the story of Eden, then you don’t get apples. This problem is only exacerbated by the increasingly diverse ethnicities of our students (I’ll save the debate over the potential for inherent racism in our ethnocentric canon for another day).

In reflecting on my own childhood, I think that an early exposure to mythology (leading to something of an obsession) and my three-times-a-week church gave me a head start in tackling allusions. My parents required church attendance, but I owe my love of mythology to D’aulaire’s Book of Greek Myths.

That cover image floods my brain with memories of laying on the floor of my bedroom, flipping through the book’s pages, staring at the pictures and living out the lives of the gods and heroes of Greek mythology. I was only in elementary school, and I’d already mastered a significant chunk of the Language Arts curriculum that I’d be subjected to in 7th grade and again in 9th grade. I sometimes seemed to know the myths and pantheons better than my teachers. This wasn’t because I was a genius; it was simply exposure at an early age.

If you want to get your youngster an early start on mythology, then grab a copy of this book. What other books are out there that can help youngsters become culturally literate and give them an advantage in school?

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