- Written by by Silvia Mwendia for Kenyakidz
Kenyan children have a chance to increase their self-esteem and cultural identity by reading African literature.
This is according to a study titled Inside board books: representations of people of color by Hughes-Hassell, S., & Cox, E.J. It affirms that exposing children of colour to multicultural literature helps them avoid future self-esteem issues.
“Children of color to absorb many of the beliefs and values of the dominant white culture, including the belief that it is better to be white. Stereotypes, omissions, and distortions, combined with an image of white superiority, play a role in socializing children of color to value the role models, lifestyles, and images of beauty of white culture over those of their own cultural group,” read the study.
Literature is a great introduction for children into ideas about culture, history, health, politics, travel and so much more. By investing in a children’s book, it helps in stimulating brain development through encouraging creativity and a wider imagination.
Psychology researchers George J. Whitehurst and Chris J. Lonigan believe that there are numerous ways in which literacy can improve cognitive development such as a wider source of vocabulary as well as developing their linguistic skills.
They also state that children learn better or more effectively from contextualised stories and language that they can relate to, or are able to familiarise themselves with. Thus in the case of our African children, educating them through African literature, may not only make them aware of their culture, history and etiquette, but also shape and develop their minds into those more active within society.
Here are a list of 5 African children’s books that can hopefully build your child’s development and peak their interest in literature too!
The Mzungu Boy- Meja Mwangi (10-13 years). This children’s tale follows the friendship of two boys during the Mau-Mau uprising of the 1950s. It follows the lives of a Kikuyu and an English boy’s lives and their quest for adventure amidst conflict. It is an interesting book that enlightens children about history, culture and the development to Kenyan independence.
Owen & Mzee- Isabella Hatkoff, Craig Hatkoff, and Paula Kahumbu (Illustrated by Peter Greste) (5-8 years) . A true story about the friendship between a 130-year old turtle and a baby hippo following the 2004 tsunami earthquake. It tells the tale of the two animals bonding together through different activity.
Weep not, Child- Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o ( 14 years and above). This book set also amidst the Mau Mau conflict, follows the story of two brothers as they deal with realities of what conflict means to their education, and to their hopes and dreams and how they cope with it. This book gives a great perspective of the breakdown of colonialism.
Oh, What a Tangle!- Anita Pouroulis (8 years and above). This story follows the life a girl name Kiki, who learns to take care of her hair, and nurture. It is a story about gratitude and self-care, something that is applicable for all ages.
A gift from childhood- Baba Wagué Diakité (14 years and above). Baba Wagué is four years old when he is sent to live with his grandparents. However under his grandmother’s tutelage he soon learns about the importance of community, history, tradition and culture. This story follows the life of a boy into an adult, as he moves from the village, to the city, to eventually America and becomes a writer. It speaks on the issue of diaspora and cultural hybridity. A fantastic read!