I grew up in Oklahoma, where tornadoes are a common summer occurrence. My family would huddle in the basement as sirens blared and the wind roared. Our home was never struck directly, but we once had a downed power line in our backyard and tree branches strewn everywhere. It was a very scary experience!
In The Coquíes Still Sing, by Karina González, Elena and her family are caught in a hurricane that makes landfall over Puerto Rico. The storm rips the roofs off houses, destroys gardens, and leaves the community without electricity or running water. Elena wonders how they will ever recover from this disaster.
Explore the book with children ages 3-9, using one or more of the following activities:
Favorite things. Elena loves to eat mangos from her family’s tree and listen to the song of the coquí frogs. She watches her dog, Luna, running and jumping around the yard. Ask children: What are some of your favorite things to see and do around your home? Invite them to draw a picture of one of these favorite sights or activities.
Scary things. Elena and her family are scared when the hurricane is passing over them. They hide in the closet with their arms around each other. Ask children: What do you do when you are scared? Who helps you when you are afraid? Invite children to practice taking deep breaths as a method of managing their fears. Say: Place one hand on your belly and the other on your chest. Breathe in slowly and feel your belly pull in. Breathe out slowly and feel your belly push out. Breathe in slowly…breathe out slowly. Suggest that they can use this kind of breathing whenever they feel overwhelmed by big emotions.
Hard things. Cleaning up after the storm is hard work. Yet Elena looks for things to hold onto among the hard things: the mango tree still standing, books to read, the bright moon, smiles. Play a game with children. Name something that is hard, such as losing a pet, having your bike stolen, or going without power after a storm. Invite children to brainstorm things to hold onto, such as people helping you look for your pet, someone offering to lend you a bike, or grilling burgers outside with neighbors until the power returns. Then encourage each child to take a turn naming something hard, while the rest of you brainstorm.
Hopeful things. Months after the storm, Elena notices new buds on the mango tree and once again hears the coquíe frogs sing. These signs give her hope that all will be well. Give children a stack of index cards and invite them to write or draw things that give them hope. Pin their words and images to a bulletin board. Invite them to ‘borrow’ a card when they need a reminder to hope and to add more cards as they discover other things that give them hope.
Frog things. The coquí frog population was also hurt by the hurricane. It, like many other species, is threatened by the destruction of the earth’s rainforests. Invite children to research the coquí and listen to its song (see Related Resources). Create social media posts or posters sharing what you learn, or write a song together celebrating the coquí’s special call.