Friday, January 17, 2014

Promoting Cultural Awareness with Anna Hibiscus' Song

Children's picture books and literature are a wonderful way to teach your child about cultural diversity. By selecting texts with characters from different ethnic backgrounds as your own child, you can make text-to-self connections that help him understand that people from other cultures may be different, yet similar in many ways. Recently we read Anna Hibiscus' Song by Atinuke and Lauren Tobias and engaged in a few activities that helped to promote cultural awareness.

Book bonding, or the act of making connections to oneself as a book is read, is an important learning technique that you can use to help your child gain an appreciation and understanding of different cultural backgrounds. By using a multicultural text, your child can experience a world far from their own and get a glimpse of how life is for people with another ethnic heritage. It might be vastly different from your child's own life - the language, the food, the color of the character's skin - and yet, through these books your child will learn that while there are many differences, people from all over the world share many common experiences. They go to school, feel happy or sad, get in arguments with people, or even get in trouble. 

Book bonding with Anna Hibiscus' Song

We tried book bonding this week by reading Anna Hibiscus' Song.

It's a story about a young girl who lives in Africa. When she sees all of her family from atop of a mango tree, she feels so happy she wants to share her happiness. As she visits each member of her family, she discovers what makes each of them happy and what happiness means to her.

The vibrant colors in the book will excite your child as he learns about Anna and her family in Africa. The universal themes of family, love, and happiness are at its forefront, making it an ideal story for making connections.

Activities to promote cultural awareness

As we read the book together we made note of similarities and differences between our lives here in America and Anna's in Africa....

"Do we have a mango tree in our yard? Do Anna and her family dress like us? Do you play with your cousins? Do we have chickens to feed? Do you ever feel so happy you could float?"

My daughter realized she had much in common with Anna, despite living in another country.

Following the story, we tried these 3 activities:

1) PICTURE WALK. We went on a "picture walk" through the book. Focusing on the pictures only, we make a list of action words to describe what Anna was doing. Then, my daughter decided whether the actions were "like me" or "not like me" and I recorded her answers.

2) DRAW A PICTURE. We drew a picture using the prompt: "What makes you feel HAPPY just like Anna does?"

Playing with daddy makes my daughter feel so happy she could float!

3). I AM ANNA. To do this activity we made glasses. But not just any glasses. They were magical glasses (made from paper) that transformed my daughter into Anna.  We decorated them in a way that represented Anna (she put flowers on hers and colored it pinkish purple, just like the dress Anna wears in the story). Then I interviewed my daughter as if she were Anna with questions like...

"Anna, what do you like to do?" or "Who do you like to play with?" or "What makes you happy?"

Decorating a pair of glasses in a way that reminded her of the main character.
 Then I cut them out and attached string so she could wear them as
we did the activity.

(Please note that this activity would likely be difficult with children under the age of 3 or 4)

I hope you will pick up a copy of Anna Hibiscus' Song from Usborne Books and try these fun learning activities too. We loved reading and learning from Anna and her family in Africa!

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from Kimberly Beavers, an independent consultant with Usborne Books. I'm so glad we got the chance to review it!

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