Thursday, December 27, 2007

Kwanzaa stories


I've brought a stack of books home from the library for our Kwanzza reading. I'm putting together a suggested reading list for young children; mostly folktales from various African countries and American titles. These aren't stories about Kwanzaa. I haven't found any really good fable or folk tales that center on the particular holiday the way Hannukkah has a rich folklore and Christmas has a canon of literature. These are stories, folktales and fables that I feel reflect or illustrate the seven principles.

Kwanzaa is a non-religious African American holiday celebrating family, culture and character. Many of the terms we use come from Swahili, a common language used across the continent of Africa. The seven days between Christmas and New Year's each focus on one of the Nguza Saba (seven principles): Umoja (unity), Kujichaguliaa (self-determination), Ujima (collective work and responsibility), Ujamaa (cooperative economics), Nia (purpose), Kuumba (creativity), and Imani (faith). Here's what we will be enjoying this week:

Starting with a few folktale collections to spread out over the week:

Nelson Mandela's Favorite African Folktales
Herstories by told Virginia Hamilton
The People Could Fly told by Virgina Hamilton

Then, for each day of the week:

Umoja (unity):
Head, Body, Legs by Won-Ldy Paye
Beautiful Blackbird by Ashley Bryan
The First Day of Winter by Denise Fleming

Kujichagulia (self-determination):
Mrs. Chicken and the Hungry Crocodile by Won-Ldy Paye
The Six Fools by Zora Neal Hurston, adapted by Joyce Carol Thomas
The Black Snowman by Phil Mendez

Ujima (collective work and responsibility):
Working Cotton by Sherley Anne Williams
Sugar Cane by Patricia Storace
The Magic Gourd by Bab Wague Diakite
Bringing the Rain to Kapipi Plain by Verna Aardema

Ujamaa (cooperative economics):
Cherries and Cherry Pits by Vera B. Williams
Wings by Christopher Myers
John Lewis in the Lead by Jim Haskins (for older elementary students)

Nia (purpose):
Just the Two of Us by Will Smith
Thunder Rose by Jerdine Nolen
Harriet and the Promised Land by Jacob Lawrence

Kuumba (creativity):
Hey You! C'mere: a poetry slam by Elizabeth Swados
Brown Honey in Broomwheat Tea by Joyce Carol Thomas
Soul Looks Back in Wonder by Tom Feelings

Imani (faith):
The Boy Who Didn't Believe in Spring by Lucile Clifton
A Child is Born by Margaret Wise Brown, illustrated by Floyd Cooper
Martin's Big Words by Doreen Rappaport, illustrated by Bryan Collier
Home Place by Crescent Dragonwagon, illustrated by Jerry Pinkney

This is a working list; not a hard and fast syllabus. I hope you will join in with your suggestions and experiences. Do you have a book or story to add? If you celebrate Kwanzaa please leave me a comment or link to your writing about it.


Anonymous said...


I found your blog through Anti-Racist Parent (I think) and I'm also a librarian. I enjoy the resource lists that the Seattle Public Library post in their kids section. Although none are identified as Kwanzaa books I thought you might like to peruse their list titled "Doorways to African American Culture & Tradition"

Thanks - Alex

Anonymous said...


The link didn't go through well. Try this one.
Children -> Children's Reading Lists
Under the Elementary Age Group.

- Alex

Cloudscome said...

Thanks Alex. I checked out that list and found some gems.

Lone Star Ma said...

I needed this post before the holidays! Thank you. I will explore these titles.