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Exploring the World with Literature (Grades 2-4): Africa

Based on the Project Exploring the World: Seven Continents in One Global Micro-Library (30 books and a guidebook). The project was supported by the ATA Educational Trust, and the complete resource is available to Alberta Teachers through the ATA Library.

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Introduction to the Continent

Africa is the second largest continent. It comprises more than fifty countries, some of which, such as the Seychelles and Madagascar, are islands. Africa is rich in diversity among its cultures, peoples, languages, and environments. The landscape of the continent varies widely from the dry desert in the North to the rainforests in West and Central Africa, to the green valleys and mountains of South Africa. The continent is surrounded by oceans and seas, and the longest river on earth, the Nile River, runs through it. North to south, Africa is divided in half by the equator, giving hot and sunny weather all year in many countries.

Africa is a continent with a very long history of civilization and many contrasts in cultures, customs, arts, and economic status. Languages too, vary from country to country, region to region, and in some instances, village to village. In countries with British heritage, English is widely spoken as well as the local languages. Schooling often involves students beginning to read and write their home language as well as learning other world languages such as English, French, Arabic, and Portuguese.

The books chosen for Africa in this micro-library represent a very small part of the enormous complexities of African history, landscape, culture, economy, and social being of its peoples.

When young readers think of Africa, the first connection they are likely to make is to exotic wildlife. The animals of the eastern and southern regions are especially likely to be familiar. The titles On a Road in Africa and Bashi, Elephant Baby (see Further Reading listings) honour those likely connections and offer opportunity for readers to extend their understandings of natural phenomena. But we also wanted young readers to appreciate the vastness of the continent and the sharp contrasts among the everyday lives of African children from one country to another as well as with the routines and events of their own lives. Therefore, we have selected titles from geographically discrepant points. My Name is Blessing, set in eastern Kenya, gently introduces readers to the hardships experienced by many children while The Herd Boy from South Africa shows them how it is possible for great leaders to rise from humble beginnings. One Hen from Ghana (West Africa) and Arafat from northern Tunisia help span the continent to shed light on what has sometimes been referred to as the dark continent. Many other titles included in the listing will enrich understanding of social cultures and faiths. Muktar and the Camels and Deep in the Sahara are just two such stories.

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Further Reading