For such a short story, there are loads of activities you can do with your child to help him/her make connections with the stories in When I Was Young in the Mountains.
Compare how life was back then to how it is now. Compare items such as bathrooms, taking baths, swimming, etc. For your artsy kids, have them draw a visual representation. For your kids who love to tell stories, have them make up their own stories about kids back them versus kids now.
Have your child tell a story beginning with “When I Was Young in _____________.” Better yet, tell your own story about your childhood and where you grew up.
Locate West Virginia on a map and talk about its location. Ask your child to identify which states border West Virginia, which rivers run through the state, the state capital, etc. Do the same for the states that lie among the Appalachian Mountains, including the Carolinas, Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Maryland.
Talk about the Appalachian Trail, the more than 2100-mile stretch from Georgia to Maine that many hikers hike each year.
Compare and contrast the ocean, desert, and mountains, all of which are mentioned on the last page of the book.
In the story, Rylant writes about going to church and witnessing her cousin being baptized in the river. I know I’ve never witnessed this in person, and your child may have questions about what’s going on. Explain what is happening. It could be an excellent jumping off point for talking about different religions and their practices.
One of Rylant’s memories in the book is sitting on the porch with her family at night under a sparkling night sky. Take a moment to point out the stars in the sky and the constellations.
Find pictures of the animals mentioned in the book, the bobwhite, black snake, frogs, and cows. Discuss facts about each one, including the sound it makes, what it eats, etc. Talk about the different plants and wildlife found in the Appalachians.
This book can be a jumping off point for discussing the Appalachian culture—the people, the food, the traditions, the music, etc. Unfortunately, there is a misconception about Appalachian people being hillbillies and dumb. Use this as an opportunity to describe the richness of the culture. Check out National Geographic’s site about Appalachia. It offers an interactive map with points of interest throughout the Appalachian region. There are so many more out there.
This book has been around for twenty-five years, so let me know what you’ve tried.