Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Reading Around the World

Now that school has started, I imagine many of you are looking for ways to volunteer in your child's classroom. When my kids were younger, my contributions usually were centered around books and reading. Sometimes I was in charge of the book orders for the class, other times I would work in small reading circles, and sometimes I would read aloud to the entire class. All of these were great ways for me to volunteer, as well as introduce some of my favorite children's books.

I want to tell you about one of my all time favorite classroom-reading activities. In two separate kindergarten classes, I came in once a week and read a story from a different country. We called it "Reading Around the World," and it was a hit with the kids and their teachers!

The first thing I did was bring in a huge map of the world, where it was given a special space on the wall for the entire year. Then every week, I would come in with a book from a different country or culture, and read it to the class. We'd spend time looking at where the country was on the map, and its location relative to other landmarks. I always asked the kids if they knew where the country was, and I always had volunteers (even if many times they had no idea!). Before each class, I would make a color copy of the book and shrink it down to about 1.5 inches by 1.5 inches, laminate it and then tape it up on the map with a string pointing to the country it represented. The kids proved to be wonderful helpers with this. By the end of the year it was quite a vision; we had a map filled with books from around the world.

Of course, you can add as much to each lesson as your time and creativity allow. You can bring in food, music, dolls or clothing from each country. Many of the books, especially the old folktales, have author's notes that impart interesting background information about the story, culture or country. The main thing is to show the kids different stories and traditions from around the world.

I just went to our local library and spent some time looking at picture books from other countries. There were lots of books to choose from. Here's a sampling of some books to consider:

Head, Body, Legs by Won Ldy-Pay and Margaret Lippert (Liberia)
Edward the Emu by Sheena Knowles (Australia)
The Painted Pig by Elizabeth Cutter Morrow (Mexico)
The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf (Spain)
The Story about Ping by Marjorie Flack (China)
Tikki Tikki Tembo by Arlene Mosel (China)
Strega Nona by Tomie DePaola (Italy)
In Egyptian Times by Kate Davies (Egypt)
I Live in Tokyo by Mari Takabayashi (Japan)
How My Parents Learned to Eat by Ina Friedman (Japan)
Hosni The Dreamer by Ehud Ben-Ezer (Arabian folktale)
Jouanah: A Hmong Cinderella adapted by Jewell Reinhart Coburn with Tzexa Cherta Lee (Hmong)
The Egyptian Cinderella by Shirley Climo (Egypt)
Adelita: A Mexican Cinderella by Tomie de Paola (Mexico)
No Dinner! The Story of the Old Woman and the Pumpkin by Jessica Souhami (India)
All the Way to Lhasa: A Tale From Tibet by Barbara Helen Berger (Tibet)
The Gifts of Wali Dad Retold by Aaron Shepard (India and Pakistan)
Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters by John Steptoe (Zimbabwe)
Oh, Kojo! How Could You! by Verna Aardema (an Ashanti Tale)
Listen to the Wind by Greg Mortenson and Susan Roth (Pakistan)
Madeleine by Ludwig Bemelmans (France)
A Bear Called Paddington by Michael Bond (England)

Note: You can see I came across three different Cinderella stories in my brief perusal at the library.

This is a really fun project both in its research, and its implementation. I honestly felt I learned as much as the kids did, and it widened everyone's horizons a bit. Most of these books are beautifully illustrated and lend themselves well to reading aloud. One other thing. I felt it was important to leave each book in the classroom for a week, so that the kids could look at it on their own, if they wished to.

For some other classroom-reading activities, check out two previous posts. One was on reading Bill Peet books over the course of year, the other was reading My Father's Dragon, with a corresponding art activity. Best wishes to all for a successful 2009-2010 school year!

1 comment:

Lubna said...

Dear Robin,
Thank you so much for your kind reply and for your willingness to donate books to our tiny school in Bangalore India.
This is such a wonderful project. I am so glad that Three Cups of Tea is available in a version, suited for children.
This was a wonderful project, hope many others pick up on this idea and implement it. Truly we can usher in world peace by giving our kids a glimpse into other cultures.
Thanks again and I am sending you the mailing address, right away.
Warm regards,