Introducing South Africa

Education is the most powerful weapon we can use to change the world.

— Nelson Mandela

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South Africa is a country dear to our hearts. My husband and I lived in Cape Town for the first three years of our marriage and so I have always been keen to introduce something of the place and people to our children. (A visit one day hopefully.)

The time came at the beginning of lockdown (no particular reason why then).  I spent some time reading stories to the children set in South Africa.  This was a chance to share not only some of the country’s painful history and ongoing challenges but traditional folktales as well.  Of course I didn’t know the Black Lives Matter protests were about to erupt.

I imagine most South African children are familiar with their own history and the sorts of stories we have read, but for those of us with children across other parts of the world, getting to know this slither of African history may widen our appreciation and love for people from this corner of the world.

I have attached a mixture of picture books and longer stories below to read with our children whether at home or in the classroom, and I hope they might stimulate conversation and broaden the minds of our little ones.

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Autumn Books and Inspiration

Children’s Book Recommendations

Visiting Paris

Visiting Rome

Visiting Barcelona

Oxford Stories

Books 0-5 years

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“…the voice that tells us a story aloud is always more than a carrier wave bringing us the meaning; it’s a companion through the events of the story, ensuring that the feelings it stirs in us are held within the circle of attachment connecting the adult reading, and the child listening. To hear a story is a social act.” — Francis Spufford, The Child that Books Built

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Audiobooks are the Answer

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Tudor Books 8+

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Rainforest Literature for Kids

In a squeaky voice he piped in the man’s ear: “Senhor, a ruined rain forest means ruined lives … many ruined lives. You will leave many of us homeless if you chop down this great Kapok tree.”

— Lynne Cherry, The Great Kapok Tree

Lynne Cherry writes beautifully about the plight of the rainforest through an engaging story, lively illustrations Continue reading

Read Alouds with my 4 year old

There are few stronger family bonds than this habit of devoting an occasional hour to reading aloud, on winter evenings, at any rate. The practice is pleasant at the time, and pleasant in the retrospect, it gives occasion for much bright talk, merry and wise, and quickens family affection by means of intellectual sympathy. Indeed, the wonder is that any family should neglect such a simple means of pure enjoyment, and of moral, as well as intellectual culture.

— Charlotte Mason, Formation of Character

Happy New Year!

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The Magic of Christmas
— Tom Krause

‘Joy to the World’, the carolers sang out
as last minute shoppers scurried about,
desperately seeking that one special gift
that would give Christmas morning a magical lift.

A old man standing still listening to the song,
amidst all the madness of the bustling throng,
in a shaky hoarse voice began to join in
singing the words of the famous old hymn.

One by one people stopped with their madness
to join with the old man for a moment of gladness.
By the time the carolers finished singing their song
the whole throng was united as they all sang along.

And as if by magic from out of the sky
church bells rang out from a chapel near by.
When the song finally ended the people greeted each other
with messages of good will they shared with one another.

You see that magical gift the shoppers sought for so long,
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That magical gift so desperately sought
was the Spirit of Christmas -which could never be bought.

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Maths through Stories and Games

The mathematician’s patterns, like the painter’s or the poet’s must be beautiful; the ideas, like the colours or the words must fit together in a harmonious way. Beauty is the first test: there is no permanent place in the world for ugly mathematics.

— G.H. Hardy

In a world that thinks of education through a post-Enlightenment lens, we need to hear Hardy’s words more than ever.  Maths is beautiful. Continue reading

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Barcelona, a fountain of courtesy, shelter of strangers, hospice to the poor, land of the valiant, avenger of the offended, reciprocator of firm friendship, a city unique in its location and beauty.

— Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Don Quixote, 1605

Half term took us to the wonderful Barcelona for a few days, both “unique in its location and beauty” as Don Quixote exclaimed.  Of course this was centuries before four great masters of modern art, Gaudí, Miró, Picasso and Dalí added their creativity to the city. Continue reading

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Write what should never be forgotten.

— Isabel Allende

Understanding the past is fundamental to who we are in the present and the kind of society we seek to build into the future. Historical fiction is one way we can help our children to inhabit the past, Continue reading