5 Great Stories About African Culture

Although the Swahili word safari means “journey,” children need not travel far to experience international culture. Whether it’s to observe wild animals or learn about ethnic food and music, reading can offer young children colorful insights into far-away lands. As they become aware of their own identities within a family and community, they are naturally curious about how other families and communities work. Diversity exposure in early childhood not only helps children acquire stronger social skills, it also improves their potential for future academic success.

Below are 5 great stories about African culture to build discussion during your preschool Circle Time in January. These stories come to life in the Experience Preschool Going on Safari Curriculum Kit. Order yours today

Safari, So Good!

by Bonnie Worth

It’s always an adventure with the Cat in the Hat series of books for young readers!

In Safari, So Good! by Bonnie Worth, the Cat in the Hat takes Sally and Nick on a trek deep into wild animal territory. Along the way, they meet hippos, giraffes, rhinos, baboons, jackals, hyenas, pythons and more! They also learn some very cool facts about each one. (Did you know that elephants favor one tusk over another or that lion cubs are born with spots?)

Children will explore new animal names and venture into the natural sciences with this title and, as always, the Cat in the Hat books always feature fun illustrations and plenty of word play!

A Giraffe and a Half

by Shel Silverstein

Stories about animals are traditional favorites for children. Teachers who ask simple questions during read-alouds about plot and setting help children build the foundation for reading readiness.

Children love the rhythm of poetry’s words and can often sense how to finish a line of poetry. Hearing separate sounds and identifying them is an important early-reading skill.

In A Giraffe and a Half, author Shel Silverstein helps readers imagine a litany of ways a safari animal can be stretched, dressed and otherwise augmented. (Just imagine a giraffe with a rat in his hat, a chair in his hair, a rose on his nose and glue on his shoe!) He then goes in reverse, imagining that the giraffe creatively sheds every one of his extra “layers”–until there is only a giraffe.

Silverstein’s whimsical “cumulative tale” will result in giggles and grins all around. The illustrations of a little boy with a giraffe charmingly enhance the tale’s repetition of sounds!

Handa’s Surprise

by Eileen Browne

Eating colorful foods like fruits and vegetables is especially important in childhood. Use books about foods to reinforce healthy eating habits while encouraging youngsters to broaden their developing palates.

In Handa’s Surprise, a young girl begins a trip to a neighboring village in Kenya. On her head, she carries a basket of seven fruits, which she plans to give to her friend Akeyo. But animals appear in the tall grasses and trees and steal the fruits one by one. What will happen when she realizes her gift to Akeyo has disappeared?

Two full spreads inside this “Read and Share” book offer suggestions and activities inspired by the story and designed to help parents and children build a foundation for reading success.

We All Went on Safari

by Laurie Krebs

During children’s first years of school, they will meet peers with different abilities, cultures, languages and backgrounds. It is important that they not only accept diversity but embrace it as a strength.

In We All Went on Safari, a small group including Mosi, Tempu and Arusha begins a walking trip across the plains at daybreak. Along the way, they take turns counting hippos, lions, warthogs, ostriches, giraffes, monkeys and other animals. With the sun rising higher, the group ventures farther and farther across the Serengeti, counting wildlife as they go. At sunset, they decide to build a campfire and settle down for the night.

A chart that teaches children how to count in Swahili is an unexpected perk of this rhyming book, which also offers colorful glimpses into Tanzania’s geography, native dress and indigenous wildlife.


by Manya Stojic

The most powerful children’s books do a lot of heavy lifting. That is, they provide much more than an opportunity to read and practice print concepts. A good example of this is Rain by Manya Stojic (who both writes and illustrates), which combines sensory details and natural science with cause/effect structure.

Starting with a description of hot, dry cracked soil, Stojic then introduces a series of wild animals who sense the impending and much-needed rainy season on the African plains. A porcupine smells it coming. Zebras see lightning. Baboons hear thunder. Finally a rhinoceros feels the first drop of showers that will turn everything green and fresh, at least temporarily. Previously arid and brown, the plains offer up beautiful shade trees,  nourishing fruit and cooling ponds.

A clever ending that hints at the cyclical nature of weather describes a tiny crack that forms in the soil shortly after the showers end. This is a must-read for anyone interested in helping children see the universal needs of all living things.


Recommended Books for the Going On Safari theme
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