Fears are a part of childhood. Whether it’s worries about monsters under the bed, big dogs, loud noises, or parents leaving for a night out, children sometimes feel afraid. And some children’s fears include not knowing if they will have enough to eat or a safe place to sleep at night. The world can be a frightening place!
In Bright Star, author Yuyi Morales explores how a whitetail fawn and her mother navigate the dangers of living in the borderlands. We listen as the doe murmurs words of encouragement to her little one in English and Spanish. We watch as the fawn discovers the beauty of the Sonoran Desert, avoids threats to its safety, and learns to speak up for herself.
Use one or more of these activities after reading the book to help children 3-8 years name their fears and learn to trust that they can overcome whatever obstacles come their way.
Centering Breaths. Twice, the doe invites her fawn to breathe in and out slowly as a way to prepare for the unknown. Encourage children to stand a few feet apart with their arms at their sides. As you say “breathe in”, everyone stretches out their arms and lifts them in a circle until their hands are above their heads. Then say, “breathe out”, and everyone brings their stretched arms back down to their sides. Repeat this breathing motion several times. (If you’re short on space, encourage children to sit with one hand on their chest and the other on their belly. Then repeat “breathe in, breathe out” slowly several times so they can feel their bodies breathing.)
Loving Names. The doe calls her fawn many names in this story: beautiful creature (hermosa creatura), bright star, little one (cosita pequeña), trembling little heart (corazoncito tembloroso). Invite children to share loving nicknames that their family and friends use with them or that they use for others. Encourage them to include names they give to stuffed animals and pets as well. Ask: How do you feel when someone calls you by a special name? Why do you think people call others (or beloved objects) by special names? What special name would you like to be called?
Saying No. The doe wants her fawn to speak up when afraid. She tells the fawn that others will provide protection. Invite children to draw pictures of things that scare them. Then remind them of the fawn’s emphatic ‘no!’ and encourage them to write a few words telling their scary things to go away or stop bothering them. Take turns shouting each child’s words out loud as a group so everyone knows how they feel.
Imagining Together. Throughout the story, the fawn is frightened by scary things and also sees and feels good things like butterflies, water drops, cactus flowers, and other mothers and children. She is learning to imagine a world full of beauty. Invite children to close their eyes and imagine a world without fear. Ask: What would be in your beautiful world? How would people treat each other in this beautiful place? Then encourage children to open their eyes and create a mural of a beautiful world together, using markers, paint, chalk, or torn pieces of colored paper.