Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Swahili Alphabet and Counting Books

We have only a few more weeks left in our Africa unit of study. Before we move our focus on to the next continent of study (Asia), I wanted to share some of my favorite Swahili alphabet and counting books. I have found that students find learning new languages and words appealing, and these are a great way to introduce students to some of the wide-ranging diversity of the people, places, and history of central and Western Africa.


Moja Means One: a Swahili counting book by Muriel Feelings and illustrated by Tom Feelings (a Caldecott Honor book). This classic picture book introduces children to the numbers one through ten in Swahili and includes a pronunciation guide. Each number also introduces a fact about one of the many Swahili-speaking countries and peoples in Africa. The detailed black and white illustrations are fascinating and were awarded a Caldecott honor.


We All Went on Safari: a counting journey through Tanzania by Laurie Krebs and illustrated by Julia Cairns. We All Went on Safari is a more recent take on the Swahili alphabet and introduces children to the numbers one through ten as well as some of the more popular animals found in Tanzania. A section at the back of the book includes the Swahili word (and pronunciation) for each animal as well as some brief facts about them. There is also information about the Swahili names in the story and the qualities that those names represent. Additional information describes the Maasai people as well as the country of Tanzania in general.


Jambo Means Hello: a Swahili Alphabet Book by Muriel Feelings and illustrated by Tom Feelings (a Caldecott Honor Book). This follow-up book introduces different Swahili words for each letter of the alphabet. Each word is followed by a short paragraph that explains more about the word selected and additional details are provided by the illustrations (which, again, won a Caldecott Honor). The hardcover version of the book has a fascinating end note about the illustration process and the two-toned printing process.


Ashanti to Zulu: African Traditions by Margaret Mustgrove and illustrated by Leo and Diane Dillon (Caldecott Medal). This final book is a bit of an outlier, as it is broader than Swahili-speaking countries, but its alphabet organization makes it a natural fit. Here the alphabet is used to introduce readers to 26 distinct African tribes through brief paragraphs and detailed, colorful illustrations. This is a great book for helping to reinforce the idea with students that Africa is not a country, it is a continent of diverse countries and diverse peoples. (You may also want to pair this with another book that highlights the diversity of urban Africa as well, such as the Jamela series of books by Niki Daly, which I share with my students.)


Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday Challenge is hosted by Kid Lit Frenzy and is a weekly roundup of educator blogs that are sharing nonfiction picture books. Click the link to check out other nonfiction posts.

9 comments:

  1. We all Went on Safari is in my collection but I don't know the others. Thanks for this list!

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    1. You're welcome, Carrie! They are classics from awhile ago, so they may have fallen off peoples' radars.

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  2. Thanks for telling us about these books. What an incredible text set!

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    1. Thanks! These are great resources.

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  3. I haven't read any of these - look how many award winners! What a wonderful list!

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    1. It's quite a distinguished group! Definitely some deserving illustrations for sure.

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  4. I know of Ashanti to Zulu but don't know about the others. What a great collection as always, Katie. :)

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  5. So glad you highlighted these books. I have all these books in my collection except for the Ashanti to Zulu Book, can't wait to read that one.

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