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Almost To Freedom

Steps To Freedom
based on Almost to Freedom
by Vaunda Micheax Nelson
Grades: K–3

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About the Book
Written in first person and in dialect, the story is told from the point of view of a rag doll named Sally.

Miz Rachel and her daughter, Lindy, are enslaved on a Virginia plantation. Sally provides comfort to Lindy as the girl toils in the cotton fields and is whipped by the overseer. One night, Miz Rachel and Lindy escape, beginning the trip north to freedom along the Underground Railroad. At one safe house, Sally slips from Lindy's waist and is left alone. Some time later, a new girl named Willa hides in the house, finding the doll that she calls Belinda. Once again the rag doll provides comfort to a little girl.

This book of historical fiction includes an Author's Note explaining the history of the Underground Railroad.

Set the Stage
Begin a discussion of the Underground Railroad, which functioned primarily from 1830-1861. Explain that it was a network of secret stops that helped the enslaved in the slave states escape to freedom.

Lead a discussion of the book with these questions:
• How did Sally provide comfort to Lindy, and then, to Willa?
• Why do you think the author chose to tell Sally's story using dialect?
• How is this book different from others you've read about the Underground Railroad?
• How does the artwork contribute to your understanding of the events?

Student Activity
This reproducible for students will help them check their understanding of the sequence of events from the story.

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Related Activities
To extend students' enjoyment of the book, try these:

  • From Start to End: Make a timeline of the events in the doll's life.
  • Make a Quilt: Have each student draw a picture about the Underground Railroad. Stitch the illustrations into a class quilt and display on a bulletin board with a caption.
  • Read a Biography: Read aloud a book on Harriet Tubman. Discuss Tubman's role as a "conductor" on the Underground Railroad.
  • Listen to Music: Play a recording of the Negro spiritual Swing Low, Sweet Chariot. Discuss the song's significance to the Underground Railroad.
  • Change Narrator: Ask volunteers to retell the story from the point of view of Lindy.

Lesson Developed by Dr. Susan Shafer
Dr. Susan Shafer is a former elementary school teacher with more than twenty years of classroom experience and a doctorate in education from Teachers College, Columbia University. While teaching she received special recognition for her innovative, theme-based teaching methods. The author of two books for children and numerous articles for adults, Susan is presently a freelance writer, editor, and educational consultant.