Around the World with Picture Books: A Literature Approach for Primary Grades teaches geography and world cultures to children using classic children’s picture books. The first book in this new series, Part I, covers the continents of Australia and Antarctica plus selected countries in Asia and Africa (China, Japan, Thailand, India, Morocco, Egypt, Kenya, Tanzania, and Ghana). Part Il visits Europe and South America, but I have not reviewed it.
These interactive courses involve reading, discussion, artwork, notebooking (which includes some writing), and optional cooking activities. Consequently, along with geography and world cultures, students are also covering literature, history, art, and science.
There are a number of lessons for each country or continent, with 70 lessons in all in Part I. For children in the primary grades, this study might be completed in a semester if you use lessons four days per week, but if you use them two days per week, the study should take two semesters. If you choose to complete it in one semester, you need to add only language arts and math for a complete curriculum. (Part II can be used the second semester.)
Part I requires the use of 15 children’s books such as The Story about Ping, Anno’s China, The Lotus Seed, The Story of Little Babaji, and The Day of Ahmed’s Secret. Since most of them will be used for a short time for individual country or continent studies, you should be able to borrow most of them from the library if you wish. However, Anno's China is new enough that it is unlikely to be in your local library. The other exception is Maps by Aleksandra Mizielinska and Daniel Mizielinski, which is used throughout the study. This oversized book features lovely hand-drawn maps that show not only major cities and geographic features but also small images of birds, animals, plants, crops, major industries, famous people, and landmarks. It has maps of major countries and geographical areas, although it is not a comprehensive atlas.
Children will also create a notebook using the Tsubame Note Book that comes either with the complete pack for this course or separately. This lovely notebook has acid-free, lined pages and a sewn binding that allows it to lie flat as children work.
At the back of Around the World with Picture Books are 26 pages of blackline drawings of flags, animals, country outlines, and scenes that are to be cut out (or photocopied if you wish) and colored or painted by students. These images are to be glued into the notebook as they work through this course, and students will add their own writing to accompany some of the images.
Each country or continent study begins with Maps and geography exploration. One or more of the picture books are introduced, read, and discussed. The images themselves are often the topic of discussion as directed by the lesson plans. You can also read additional books (many of which are historical or biographical) from annotated lists within Around the World with Picture Books, or check out videos or websites that are suggested.
Nature studies are brought in later within the lessons for the country or continent. For example, the China study includes brief lessons on the giant panda, the cormorant, the Java sparrow, and the pangolin in the next to the last lesson. Art activities also come toward the end of each study. For China, this is a lesson on Chinese brush painting that relies on a website that teaches the techniques. The last lesson for China has a recipe for Asian Noodle Soup that you can use for a family celebration. Some continent studies have more than one recipe.
Around the World with Picture Books offers a delightfully different approach to learning that is perfectly suited to families with young children up to about third grade. Younger children can participate as much as they are able while their primary-grade siblings go further with notebooking, discussions, nature studies, and art.