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On the READ to AFRICA!

August 12, 2021 by Maria Cleary

Welcome back! We are On the Read, a short series of blog posts all about travel. Together, we have set off on an adventure across continents and oceans, through the pages of our favourite Helbling Readers, extending our steps both in space and in time. We are on a journey to six major destinations, doing some sight-seeing, learning about culture, and getting some travel tips.

Our first destination was London. From London, we travelled to Italy and visited Venice and Rome. Then we travelled to Asia and explored India and the Himalayas. We continued our journey to the United States of America and now we travel to the vast continent of Africa, just before packing our bags for our journey back home.

Travel tip: if you cannot do this project over the holidays, plan it for the next semester or year, as a reading club or extensive reading project.

1 The destination

Africa is the second largest continent after Asia with probably the most diverse cultural and geographical characteristics one can imagine. For many of us visiting Africa is the chance to step into a myriad of different worlds. Browse the map from Egypt to South Africa and think about the diversity of the natural landscape and cultural heritage in Africa. We cannot avoid talking about the marks left by colonization either, so talking about the African continent is a good reason to talk about history, politics, economics and ecology as well.

Brainstorm all things about Africa.

  • How big is Africa?
  • How many countries are there in Africa? 
  • Describe different types of African wildlife and landscape.
  • What African music do you know?

Activity tip: Ask your students to choose one country to research and get them to collect as much information as they can about it. Remind students to collect practical information and facts about the country’s cultural, natural and historical heritage.

  • What is your chosen country and why?
  • big is your chosen country?
  • How many people live there?
  • What is (are) the official language(s)?
  • What are the major cities?
  • How can you travel to this country and how can you travel between places once you get there?
  • How can you describe its wildlife and natural landscape?
2 Getting there and getting around

Transportation within Africa is not as straightforward as in Europe, for example. The diversity of the landscape makes it more difficult to get from one place to another, plus there are forests, deserts, huge mountains, lakes and among all these, many protected areas. 

Activity tip: Make a plan to travel between two chosen destinations. For example, how can you get from Egypt to Kenya? How can you travel from Malawi to South Africa?

Activity tip 2: FInd out about usual and unusual means of transportation in Africa.

3 Stories to learn about different aspects of Africa

In the Helbling Readers series, you will find a variety of stories that link to African culture and nature. 

4 Top sights to visit in the Africa

We have collected some sights to visit in Africa. Of course, our selection is only a fraction of the places you can visit so encourage your students to create their own Top 5 lists.

1 Botswana

We’d like to visit this country for its wildlife and go on a safari in the Kalahari desert.

2 Kenya and the Gedi ruins

Kenya is famous for its beautiful beaches. You can also visit the ruins of an old Swahili village.

3 Morocco

Morocco is a fascinating place for its culture, architecture and cuisine. When we are there, we’d love to visit one of its markets. 

4 South Africa

In South Africa, you have many possibilities. You can have a city holiday, a beach holiday, a trek or you can decide to go on a safari. 

5 Egypt

For historical and cultural enthusiasts, Egypt is a must. We would like to visit the pyramids and see the Nile for ourselves.

5 Top literary sights to visit in Africa

There are two different ways of approaching literature in connection with Africa. There are famous short stories and novels that deal with African adventures and history, such as Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, The Snows of Kilimanjaro by Ernest Hemingway or Out of Africa by Karen Blixen. All these stories present a vision of Africa from a western perspective. For a more authentic idea of the continent, you should read African tales and stories written by African authors. Reading African literature will give you insight into African culture and life in a way no short holiday or documentary can give you. Just like the continent, African literature is diverse and colourful with exceptional authors to choose from. Here are some recommendations to get you started.

  • Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
  • Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  • Looking for Transwonderland by Noo Saro-Wiwa
  • The Freedom Artist by Ben Okri
  • Burger’s Daughter by Nadine Gordimer

For more titles, check out the link below:

The eight must-read African novels to get you through lockdown

And for some literary sights in South Africa, check out this article.

6 African English words 

Do you know the meaning of these words of African origin. Can you add to the list?

  • bongo
  • chimpanzee
  • cola
  • ebony
  • jazz 
  • jukebox
  • safari
  • tote
  • zebra
  • zombie

If you are interested in African American English, read this article on The Conversation website.

8 Extra project: More about Africa

Encourage your students to read African folktales. When they pick a story, ask them to describe (and show on a map) where exactly it originates from. Then, talk about the philosophy or moral of the story in class and discuss if it gives you a new perspective on different life situations. You can read some other folktales here

As an extra project, you can ask students to collect films which are set in Africa and prepare recommendations for others. 

Another great way of learning more about an African perspective is listening to Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s excellent TED Talk, The Danger of a Single Story. Listen to it in class together and discuss its relevance to your life and experience.

Next destination

Next time we head home and talk about stories which are about finding and exploring your own home. Get ready by reading one of these books:

  • Peach Boy retold by Richard Northcott (Helbling Young Readers level b)
  • The Selfish Giant retold by Maria Cleary (Helbling Young Readers level d)
  • What are you doing, Daniel? by Herbert Puchta and Günter Gerngross (The Thinking Train level b)
  • Deborah’s Dreams by Herbert Puchta and Gavin Biggs (The Thinking Train level b)
  • The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by Frank L. Baum, adapted by Jennifer Gascoigne (Level 1 A1)
  • A New Home for Socks by Antoinette Moses (Level 1 A1)
  • Jack’s Endless Summer by Martyn Hobbs (Level 1 A1)
  • Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie, adapted by Geraldine Sweeney (Level 1 A1)
  • The Railway Children by Edith Nesbit, adapted by Jennifer Gascoigne (Level 1 A1)
  • Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, adapted by Jennifer Gascoigne (Level 2 A1/A2)
  • Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery, adapted by Nicole Harrick (Level 2 A1/A2)
  • The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett, adapted by Geraldine Sweeney (Level 2 A1/A2)
  • Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, adapted by Frances Mariani (Level 4 A2/B1)
  • The Fall of the House of Usher in Tales of Mystery by Edgar Allan Poe, adapted by Janet Olearski (Level 5 B1)