Sharing stories from different cultures is a great way to encourage appreciation of diversity. Over the years, I have collected many tales from different parts of the world and the USA. Some of my favorites come from West Africa. Here are two examples:
TOO MUCH TALK. This traditional tale is re-told by Angela Shelf Medearis, a wonderful African-American children’s writer and is exquisitely illustrated by Stefano Vitale in vibrant colors and patterns that reflect its cultural roots. This story is very simple—but hilarious. A yam and other things that are not supposed to talk begin to talk and frighten the villagers who hear them. After reading the story together, we look again at the illustrations and notice the simple lines and shapes that make up many places, people and animals in the book. I ask children to draw their favorite things from the book and then we make up piggyback songs, like this one to the tune of “Hambone:”
Call: Farmer, farmer, where’ve you been?
Response: Gathering yams and back again.
Call: Farmer, farmer, what’d you see?
Response: I saw a yam that talked to me!
Call: Farmer, farmer, that can’t be!
Response: But I heard a yam that talked to me!
Call: Farmer, farmer, what did you do?
Response: I screamed uphill and downhill, too!
All: Talk! Talk! Too much talk! Talk! Talk! Too much talk!
A favorite tale from Ghana is ANANSI, THE SPIDER, retold and illustrated by Gerald McDermott. Anansi has six sons with six different, special talents. They help their father out of not just one predicament, but two. This book reflects wonderful values, including appreciation of diverse talents and helping one other. After we read the story, we make headbands like Anansi, but with our own patterns. We cut dark trashbags to become spider costumes with 8 legs. We then retell the story in gestures and dance to the tune of “Mbube,” sung by Miriam Makeba on the Album, AFRICA.
Try these stories or share your own favorite stories from other cultures (or your own culture) with your children!