Sunday, January 8, 2017

African-Centered Reading Comprehension - A Treasure Within

 As a literacy teacher and homeschool parent, I am big on reading comprehension - do you understand what you are reading and what does it mean to you.  I am testing out a few programs, because for some reason, I can't just use one.  LionHeart's reading didn't blossom until he was about 8 years old, which is considered "late" by left brain learning style benchmarks, but right on time for a right brain learner.  I read to him constantly and still do.  In our home, we are surrounded by books, magazines, curriculum - the printed word is everywhere so there is no escaping it.  I took a page from Jim Trelease's Read Aloud Handbook and never stopped reading aloud to my children, even the oldest.  For my older son I am usually sharing an interesting article.  Many parents seem to think that for a child to improve reading, he must practice reading.  That's only part of the story.  Being read to is just as important, if not more.  Sharing the reading experience and hearing words read fluently and expressively also helps a child improve reading, increase vocabulary, as well as develop a love for reading. 

For the new year, we'll be using a few new resources for reading comprehension.  I will examine them in separate blog posts, starting with my favorite, an African-centered resource written by master teacher and educator Dr. Chike Akua. I am almost giddy about this one.

A Treasure Within:  Stories of Remembrance & Rediscovery

A Treasure Within: Stories of Remembrance & Rediscovery is an African-centered book of stories that translate the deep thinking and philosophy of African people into stories for youth creating many opportunities for comprehension discussions. In these stories readers will find popular culture infused with African world view, moral lessons, African history and adventure.  There is no better way to engage a child in reading.  Dr. Chike Akua says that in writing these stories his purpose was clear: "To reintroduce children to the ancient wisdom of African culture."  For that I am so very grateful.  I am looking forward to completing the The Ten Cardinal Virtues activity with LionHeart, especially "control of thought" and "control of action."  The reader includes 3 stories: A Treasure Within, A Reason for Being and Daniel and the Djembe Drum.  I know my little Djembe player will absolutely love this story.

The parent/teacher resource guide is a gem.  There are more than 10 activities for each of the 3 stories in the reader.  You will find the traditional comprehension and literature activities, such as character analysis and discussion questions.  But you will also find culturally affirming activities such as the Kemetic symbols exercise.  This book represents what I have dreamed of for many years and that is a way to teach African deep thought and philosophy in a way that children can understand and incorporate into their lives. I have always believed if developing a particular skill was the desired outcome, then there is no reason why OUR stories cannot be used.  Dr. Chike has included characters the children can identify with in real life situations that require critical thinking.  The adults are not idiots (as in many Disney programs), instead they are culturally and spiritually conscious and of high integrity, which underscores honoring wisdom and elders in our community.  The stories will start with ancient Kemet and end with the culture of West Africa.  Like my favorite meal, I can't wait to dig in with my son!

For more information and tips on reading comprehension, check out this wonderful blog series at This Reading Mama.  It's 10 weeks of reading comprehension strategies.


  1. Bravo! Mama Monica proud of you Sis. I can attest to this "Treasure". I am hopeful we'll be able to have Baba Akua teach our children in SHC. Speaking it!

    Mama Viviana

  2. Excellent blog post, Mama Monica. I love reading about young lion hearts adventures. Dr. Chike Akua is a phenomenal Mwalimu and curriculum developer. I know he would be delighted to do a class at Sankofa. In the fullness of time it will be for sure!

  3. Great resource! Thanks for sharing it. How's it going? Have you asked the kids if they liked it?

  4. As always, thank you for this review. I ordered the book and guide and look forward to reading it with my son.