Travelling to Africa

This week we followed up on our multicultural learning by travelling to Africa. I’ve always wanted to travel to Africa and now my kids do too. We started Tuesday with a trip to the local library and our Give Your Child The World passport in tow.

It is simple enough to go through the book and pull out the names of books you want to pull from the shelves. Not so simple is doing that with two toddlers who have their own ideas of fun in the library. The oldest figured out the Dewey Decimal System recently and has been using the computer to look for books of interest. He is constantly hogging the children’s visual catalog and pulling all the Nate the Great and Cam Jansen books to the screen then running to find them on the shelves. He seems to have become a fan of orange-haired detectives like himself. Younger brother is busy doing his best to empty all the puzzle boxes or DVD cases. He is more destructive than creative these past few months. While they keep themselves busy and prepare more work for me, I quickly scan for titles. This Tuesday I happen to have backup in the library. What a difference a second set of hands can make! It might explain how I found two full bags worth of books on Africa!

With our 14 new titles in the bags we headed home. I pulled out the large wall map last week and we have been taking the time to find each continent as we go through things. With Africa we started talking about the scale of the land. The diversity of the populations and landscape diversity are vast. I noticed that no books on Egypt were present and I assume that it will fall into a Middle East section. Also, since this is current rather than historical, we skipped the Egyptology. Trying to explain how large a continent is to a child is difficult but we managed a good understanding via comparisons.

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Most of the books celebrate the beauty of stories and rural traditions. For You Are A Kenyan Child was so sweet. My son asked why they played soccer with a rag ball instead of a soccer ball and we got to talk about income and rural life. With Anansi the Spider we discussed the trickster theme and how it appears in many cultures. We all know someone who is sneaky or tricky.

Animal diversity is a large part of the African mystique. Hippos, giraffes, elephants, and so many more creatures great and small clearly set Africa apart from other regions of the world. We integrated our sensory needs by making a bin of jelly beads and putting animals in. Both kids got to use tongs and scooping tools to retrieve the animals. We said their names and placed them on the map. Each child got to guess which animals were from Africa and which were not. It was so much fun that my kids did it over and over.

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When I needed a break I got the chance to turn on the tv and pulled up Tinga Tinga Tales. If you haven’t seen these, I highly recommend them. The stories are done in the art from Tanzania and look like batique art in motion. The tales are African cultural tales about animals and are produced in Nairobi. Originally a BBC show, it has been bought by Disney and brought to the USA. They are absolutely beautiful. I find myself constantly inspired by the art and simple designs. For the kids it was a nice visual play with a great and funny story mixed in.

As we wrap up the week I wanted to reflect on what a gift this has been to have a guide to opening our hearts and minds to the world. It is one thing to read stories from all over the library but it is another to find them in groups so that they build upon each other and give meaning to entire regions of the world. We had such meaningful conversation about skin color, ethnicity, culture, jobs, language, food, economic disparity, and much more thanks to reading by region.

Join us next week as we travel to Europe with Give Your Child The World.

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