Homeschool History Resources: Helping Your Kids Learn About Africa

December 17, 2012 in Journey Into Homeschooling


Before we started homeschooling, I spent months trying to decide ‘where’ to start our Homeschool History / Social Studies curriculum. After reading lots of books and watching several videos, I decided to loosen the reins on teaching Social Studies. We are taking a more relaxed approach in those areas; it’s almost an unschooling approach, as I allow the girls to choose a topic of interest in each area and conduct their own research. Below is a list of books (ranging from EASY to Adult Non-fiction) the girls are using to study the continent of Africa, including the different countries, regions, nations (tribes), etc. A complete lesson guide can be found here. *Book descriptions provided when available.*

Africa Is Not a Country by Margy Burns Knight and Anne Sibley O’Brien

 From Booklist

Ages 6-8. The title says it all. Instead of the “vanishing tribes” view of one Africa with tourists from different countries photographing the animals and primitive people, this informative picture book celebrates the diversity of the 53 nations that make up the continent today. On each page there’s a quick vignette of children in one country, with a bright, happy, colorful illustration. Three girls in school uniform walk on Cairo’s jammed city sidewalks. A boy in Nigeria practices the ancient Igbo dances. At the back a small note on each country fills in facts about geography, currency, population, etc. There’s still the danger of generalization (kids in Kenya running to school), and there are minor inaccuracies (South Africa’s Freedom Day dates from 1994, not 1974); but readers will want to go on from here to explore in depth particular countries that interest them. The essential differences and connections are here.

Under the Baobab Tree by Julie Stiegmeyer

Under the Baobab Tree Moyo and Japera travel down the red dusty road to the next village. There, they will gather under the    baobab tree, the Tree of Life. Moyo knows that some days the market wagon stops under the baobab tree. Villagers buy brightly colored cloth and heavy pots and pans. But who will gather today under the baobab tree? Come to a special place—a wondrous gathering place known as the baobab tree, the Tree of Life. Moyo and Japera know that almost anything can happen here. But today? Today the most important and truest stories of all will be told. People will come to hear, to pray, and to sing. And as the children journey to the tree they have only one question: Who will gather under the boabab tree? …Will you?


Africa by Mel Friedman
Lexile: 780L


Days of Slavery by Stuart Kallen

 Grade 4-7-These overviews cover the history of slavery in the New World until the American Civil War and the history of empires that existed in Africa before Europeans arrived. The first half of Slavery tells how the practice evolved from ancient times to the period of massive slavery in the cotton-gin era of 19th-century America. The second half of the book introduces nine famous black men, among them Crispus Attucks and Benjamin Banneker.



Freedom’s Pen by  by Wendy Lawton

Freedom's Pen: A Story Based on the Life of Freed Slave and Author Phillis Wheatley

In 1761 Phillis Wheatley was a little girl of seven or eight years old when she was captured in Gambia and brought to America as a slave. But she didn’t let her circumstances keep her down. She learned to read and write in English and Latin and showed a natural gift for poetry. By the time she was twelve, her elegy at the death of the great pastor George Whitefield brought her world-wide acclaim. Phillis became known to heads of state, including George Washington himself, speaking out for American independence and the end of slavery. She became the first African American to publish a book, and her writings would eventually win her freedom. But more importantly, her poetry still proclaims Christ almost 250 years later.



South Africa by Lucia Raatma
Lexile: 650L

South Africa

These comprehensive books take students on a journey through the diversity of our world. Topics range from interesting animals to cultural and natural world studies. Readers will find plenty of information for report writing on classroom studies. Each book includes a Want to Know More? section for locating additional information, and an At a Glance section with important dates and related information. Each book in this series takes a look at the geography, culture, and history of a country. Interesting places and cultures particular to the country are explained in a way that will attract the student’s attention. This group of books will inspire students to learn about or visit new countries as well as provide a basis for understanding global differences.



Nigeria by Lisa Owings
Lexile: 790L


Super Simple African Art by Alex Kuskowski


America: Three Worlds Meet by M.J. Cosson

America: Three Worlds Meet: Beginnings to 1620

Following a student who is helping make a documentary film, this engaging title takes readers on a journey of US history from its beginnings to 1620, a period that the three worlds of Europe, North America, and Africa meet.



Amazing Africa Projects You Can Build Yourself by Carla Mooney
Lexile: IG930L

Amazing Africa Projects You Can Build Yourself

Separating the vast continent into its many distinct and diverse countries, this comprehensive reference introduces the ancient civilizations and tribes, unique traditions, and amazing wildlife of Africa. With 25 fun projects that kids can complete using easily accessible supplies and even recycled materials, this study clearly demonstrates what life is like in each unique setting. Step-by-step instructions show how to make shields for an initiation ceremony, cook banana fritters and benne cakes, and design animal masks to celebrate the seasons. Summarizing one of the world’s largest and most populous landscapes, this overview also touches on the obstacles overcome by the African people and how the global community can help them face future challenges.



Africa by Mary Lindeen

 From School Library Journal

Kindergarten-Grade 2–While it is impossible to fully cover even the smallest country, let alone a continent, in 24 pages, these titles offer the right facts and images to stimulate the youngest armchair travelers and set them on the road to more detailed explorations. Each spread offers a page of narrative opposite a full-page illustration. The opening spread provides a world map with the continent highlighted and describes its size and location relative to the other continents. The books also discuss some prominent landforms and biomes and their animal inhabitants, and countries, cultures, and natural resources, in a large-print sentence or two each, opposite a clear color photograph.

Atlas of Africa by Rusty Campbell

Atlas of Africa


Kenya in Colors by Sarah Kras
Lexile: AD710L


Malawi in Pictures by Sarah De Capua
 An overview of Malawi’s geography and history, along with an exploration of the political, economic, and cultural landscape of this country located in southeastern Africa.



African Tales: The Barefoot Collection by Gcina Mhlophe

 This African collection is beautifully illustrated with hand-sewn embroidered artwork decorated with African beads on a silk base. The eight tales are from Ghana, Senegal, Lesotho, Namibia, Malawi, Sudan, Swaziland and Ethiopia; each is prefaced by a short introduction to the country.



Ancient Africa by  Rob Bowden
Lexile: 990L

 Where in Africa can you find the world’s largest mud-brick building? Why did the Ancient Egyptians mummify bodies? Who gave a giraffe to the Sultan of Tunis? Africa Focus offers fascinating and detailed coverage of a diverse and complex continent. The four titles examine different aspects of Africa and its interaction with the world.



Bound For America: The Forced Migration of Africans to the New World (Haskins & Benson)

Bound for America: The Forced Migration of Africans to the New World

Between about 1500 and 1850, millions of Africans were captured and transported across the Atlantic in one of the most tragic ordeals in human history. In this objective and profoundly moving book, Haskins and Benson open with discussions of slavery thoughout history and of Europe and Africa at the time the African slave trade began, then closely examine every aspect of the Middle Passage. Included are sections on capturing the slaves, the march to the coast, the selection of slaves for purchase, conditions on slave ships, and slave revolts aboard ship. Illuminated with historic prints, photographs, and Floyd Cooper’s compelling paintings. Timeline, bibliography, map, and index included.



Seven Wonders of Ancient Africa by Michael Woods

Seven Wonders of Ancient Africa

Long ago, Greek writers created a list of the seven wonders of the world. But that list only included the incredible monuments and other marvelous structures the writers knew about – which were all located in Greece and surrounding countries. The writers were not aware of the many wonders in other parts of the world. Africa is one of the largest continents on Earth. In ancient times, some Africans lived in powerful kingdoms where they built some amazing wonders. One kingdom built giant temples carved into the side of a mountain. Another kingdom built an enormous stone city surrounded by a thick stone wall. Another group built hundreds of stone pyramids as tombs for their kings and queens. What other ancient wonders does Africa hold? Some are hidden in vast deserts, along ancient trade routes, and in glittering cities. You’re about to begin your search for the seven wonders of Ancient Africa



Botswana by Sarah Kras

Botswana A comprehensive series designed to showcase particular features of a country. – Provides maps, timelines, fast facts, charts, sidebars, and vivid four-color photographs that complement the text. – Also includes a “To Find Out More” section. Grades 5-8 Social Studies Culture: I – Explain how language, literature, the arts, architecture, traditions, beliefs, values, and behaviors contribute to the development and transmission of culture. Time, Continuity, & Change: II – Identify and use key concepts such as chronology, change, and conflict to explain and show connections among patterns of historical change and continuity. People, Places, & Environments: III – Elaborate mental maps of locales, regions, and the world that demonstrate understanding of relative location, direction, size, and shape.


The Atlantic Slave Trade by Don Nardo

Sierra Leone by Suzanne LeVert

Senegal in Pictures by Thomas Streissguth

 An overview of Senegal’s geography and history, along with an exploration of the political, economic, and cultural landscape of this country located in western Africa.



Liberia by Patricia Levy
 Describes the geography, history, government, economy, people, lifestyle, religion, language, arts, leisure, festivals, and food of the West African nation of Liberia.



Head, Body, Legs: A Story From Liberia by Won-Ldy Paye
Lexile: AD220L

Head, Body, Legs: A Story from Liberia

A magical retelling of a creation story from Liberia. “”Long ago, Head was all by himself. ” “He had no legs, no arms, no body.” “He rolled everywhere.”" Head is all alone. Body bounces along, Arms swing about, and Legs stand around. They can’t do much by themselves, so they try to join together. But how? Should Head attach to the belly button? Should Legs stand on Arms? If only they can work together, everything will be perfect. This vibrant, joyous retelling of a traditional Liberian creation story shows how much can be accomplished with a little cooperation.




Pretty Salma: A Little Red Riding Hood Story From Africa by Niki Daly (Ghanian Fairytale)
Lexile: AD640L

Pretty Salma: A Little Red Riding Hood Story from Africa

When Granny asks Pretty Salma to go to the market one day, she warns her not to talk to strangers. But cunning Mr. Dog tricks Salma, and before she knows it, he’s wearing her stripy ntama, her pretty white beads, and her yellow sandals. And he’s on his way to Granny’s house African culture and flavor infuse this inventive retelling of a favorite fairy tale, and the vibrant lively illustrations bring it to life. The result is a story that combines new and old and spans cultures as successfully as it has spanned the centuries.



The Spider Weaver: A Legend of Kente Cloth by Margaret Musgrove (Ghanian Folktale)
Lexile: AD620L

 Two weavers discover a magical-looking, beautiful spider web in the jungle. Inspired by the web¹s brilliant design and the weaver who created it, the men return to their village and create complex patterns of their own, which they come to call kents, a cloth that is now known throughout the world.



Seven Spools of Thread by Angela Medearis (Ghanian folktale)
Lexile: 430L

Seven Spools of Thread: A Kwanzaa Story

In an African village live seven brothers who make family life miserable with their constant fighting. When their father dies, he leaves an unusual will: by sundown, the brothers must make gold out of seven spools of thread. If they fail, they will be turned out as beggars. Using the Nguzo Saba, or “seven principles” of Kwanzaa, the author has created an unforgettable story that shows how family members can pull together, for their own good and the good of the entire community. Magnificent and inspiring linoleum block prints by Daniel Minter, who lives in New York, bring joy to this Kwanzaa cerebration. Ms. Medearis, who lives in Texas, is the author of many fine books for children.



Anansi The Spider: A Tale from the Ashanti by Gerald McDermott
Lexile: AD290L

Anansi the Spider: A Tale from the Ashanti

Anansi the Spider is one of the great folk heroes of the world. He is a rogue, a mischief maker, and a wise, lovable creature who triumphs over larger foes. In this traditional Ashanti tale, Anansi sets out on a long, difficult journey. Threatened by Fish and Falcon, he is saved from terrible fates by his sons. But which of his sons should Anansi reward? Calling upon Nyame, the God of All Things, Anansi solves his predicament in a touching and highly resourceful fashion. In adapting this popular folktale, Gerald McDermott merges the old with the new, combining bold, rich color with traditional African design motifs and authentic Ashanti language rhythms.


Ananse and the Lizard by Pat Cummings (Ghanian Folktale)

Ananse and the Lizard: A West African Tale

Can the legendary trickster be out-tricked? All the young men had gathered in the village courtyard to hear the Chief’s pronouncement: Whoever guesses his daughter’s name will have her hand in marriage, inherit half his riches, and become the next Chief. No one outside the palace had ever heard the royal daughter’s name. In a stroke of luck Ananse the spider discovers the secret. “”I, Ananse the most wise . . . the most clever . . . I alone know the name of the Chief’s daughter . . .”" But clever Lizard has plans of his own. Pat Cumming’s lively retelling and vibrant illustrations capture all the mischief and humor of Ananse, one of the most popular characters of West African lore.



A-Z Nigeria by Tamra Orr
Lexile: 930L

Describes the geography, history, culture, industry, and people of Nigeria



Ashanti to Zulu by Margaret Musgrove
Lexile: 840L

Anansi Goes Fishing by Eric Kimmel

Anansi Goes Fishing

Anansi the Spider tries to trick Turtle into fishing for his dinner.





Anansi and the Magic Stick by Eric Kimmel
Lexile: AD170L

Anansi and the Magic Stick

It’s a fine bright day, and all the animals are working — all except Anansi, that is He’s sleeping, as usual. Warthog, Lion, and Zebra laugh so hard at his messy house that they wake him up. Anansi stomps off in a huff — right into an amazing secret Hyena has a magic stick that follows his orders. If Anansi steals the stick, he’ll never have to work again, and his home will be the neatest one in town. Is the magic stick his secret for success? Or the beginning of disasters he can’t even imagine?



The Art of African Masks: Exploring Cultural Traditions by Carol Finley

 From Library Journal

Grade 5 Up-Although this topic is touched upon in many books about Africa, it is rare to find a whole volume devoted to the subject. Finley focuses on the regions where mask making is most prevalent: the Western Sudan, the Guinea Coast, and Central Africa. The cultures and countries where it was practiced in the past and where many masks are still made are highlighted on a map of the continent. Each culture is given brief coverage emphasizing the traditional use of the masks, the materials used in their creation, and the current state of the art form when possible. Clear, sharp full-color photographs of museum artifacts are well placed on the pages and reflect the large variety of materials used in mask making. Pictures of modern members of still-existing cultures add to the attractiveness of this volume.

Africa: Cultures & Costumes by Robert Lee Humphrey


Knowing what people wore and why can give us a fascinating insight into a nation’s ideas, traditions, and beliefs. Geography, war, religion, and social attitudes all have an effect on clothing and ornamentation. Cultures and Costumes: Symbols of Their Period is a beautifully illustrated 13-volume series that explores this relationship–across continents and cultures and throughout human history.

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PragmaticMom December 17, 2012 at 9:36 pm

Thanks for the exhaustive list on books for kids on Africa!
PragmaticMom recently posted..Open Ended Christmas Ornament Crafts for KidsMy Profile


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