Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Preschool Reading Around the World: Africa

This year, the girls and I are reading around the world. Well, mainly First Daughter and I are reading around the world, with First Son watching over our shoulders. Second Daughter is too busy. (She's probably in the bathroom.)

We had a wonderful time reading stories set in Africa this term. I chose our books by searching the library catalog and tried to select ones we had not read before. Some of our own books set in Africa cycled in and out of the book basket, from which the kids can select a book during quiet time (which is a mixed success, but I'm sticking with it).

My goal was not to teach about Africa's geography, economics or politics. It was merely to read some wonderful books set in Africa and perhaps learn a little of the culture and people there along the way.

A Triangle for Adaora: An African Book of Shapes by Ifeoma Onyefulu showcases lots of cultural photographs in the search for shapes. The girls loved it.

Mama Elizabeti and Elizabeti's School by Stephanie Stuve-Bodeen, illustrated by Christy Hale (Don't miss Elizabeti's Doll, either.) I adore these books. The girls adore these books. We read them over and over again.

Where Are You Going, Manyoni? by Catherine Stock is another of my favorites. I've mentioned it on the blog before.

Mama Miti: Wangari Maathai and the Trees of Kenya by Donna Jo Napoli is a good book about a real person who has made a difference in the world. I didn't think the environmental and peace messages were too forced. My children love reading about real people and they enjoyed this book. I thought the illustrations were wonderful.

Jambo Means Hello: Swahili Alphabet Book by Muriel Feelings was more fun for me than the children, but it does introduce quite a bit of African life.

Ikenna Goes to Nigeria by Ifeoma Onyefulu is a fictionalized account of a real boy's visit to his family in Nigeria. The story was fine and I knew the children would love seeing real photographs. They did.

Happy Birthday, Jamela!, Where's Jamela?, and Jamelas Dress by Niki Daly were well received. First Daughter loved Jamela and was thrilled each time I pulled out another book about her. She's a bit of a trouble-maker, but she loves her mother and seems to get in trouble more because she is impulsive than mischievous.

The Village of Round and Square Houses by Ann Grifalconi was one of the children's favorite books. They were fascinated by the story of this real village in Africa and the volcano that changed everyone's lives. (They wondered if the villagers knew about Jesus, which I couldn't learn, but I think it was sweet they cared enough to ask.)

One Big Family: Sharing Life in an African Village (also called Ogbo: Sharing Life in an African Village) by Ifeoma Onyefulu is a book more focused on telling about life in Africa than a story. My kids liked looking at the photographs, though.

Africa Is Not A Country by Margy Burns Knight was confusing for the children. It seems like a neat idea, following a day in Africa by peeking at the lives of children in different countries at different times of day, but my children were just confused that we never went back to see what happened to any of the children. It's not really a story. It was also difficult for me to read, knowing how it was glossing over so many of the troubles in the continent. (It's easier to read a story about one person or family without feeling like I'm giving the wrong impression about the continent as a whole.)

So this was our tour through Africa. We're on to Asia now and I love having a plan for introducing the children to the world without wading through actual history, geography or culture studies (though those sorts of things will come in the future). Oh, how I love picture books!


  1. I have to recommend Geography Songs if you're interested in learning geography - I always have the songs stuck in my head (I don't think I actually knew all the countries of Africa before). Thanks for the fun list!

  2. Oh, Becca, that's a great idea. I think I'm going to continue reading around the world next year and it would be a good supplement. Plus, it was on my list of things I want to buy...and calling it part of the plan means I could move it to the "need" to buy list.

  3. Very cool. Thanks for sharing. Gemma is just beginning to (kind of) grasp the idea of countries. We have a neat board book with all the continents, etc. that I'll pull out occasionally to show her this or that.

  4. I'll have to remember your list when we get to Africa later this year, it's our last continent to study.


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