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Slide Notes

The theme of this collection of children's literature is Sankofa.

The Sankofa, a widely used African-American symbol, depicts a bird that looks back while it flies forward. This collection, covers a wide range of topics including Somali folktales, literature that honors the traditions of Islam, stories highlighting the immigrant and refugee experience, and a modern day, mystery solving, Muslim-American girl ... allowing us a look back while moving forward.

Sankofa Literature

Published on Apr 18, 2018

This is a visual annotated bibliography of a collection of literature for immigrant youth compiled by Camille Primoli and Rebecca Lauer. It includes Somali folktales, literature that honors the traditions of Islam, stories highlighting the immigrant and refugee experience, and a modern day, mystery solving, Muslim-American girl.


Sankofa Literature

Rebecca Lauer and Camille Primoli
The theme of this collection of children's literature is Sankofa.

The Sankofa, a widely used African-American symbol, depicts a bird that looks back while it flies forward. This collection, covers a wide range of topics including Somali folktales, literature that honors the traditions of Islam, stories highlighting the immigrant and refugee experience, and a modern day, mystery solving, Muslim-American girl ... allowing us a look back while moving forward.

White Nights of Ramadan

by Maha Addasi
The White Nights of Ramadan is a story out of the Arabian Gulf. In this region, during Ramadan, there is a three night period where children wear traditional clothing, and walk around to their neighbors and friends collecting treats (just like trick or treating). This is a story about a little girl named Noor and her brothers preparing for this exciting time.

This is a beautiful picture book that I like recommending to students for their independent reading time. Even 5th graders need to become immersed in a beautiful picture book sometimes, especially when they will be able to find comfort in the Islamic traditions woven through the story. I am not sure that this is a tradition observed in the Somali culture, but there is still so much my students can relate to.

Home of the Brave

By Katherine Applegate
This is a wonderful story about a boy named Kek, a Sudanese refugee, that moves to Minnesota after losing his father and brother, and having been separated from his mother. The story captures Kek’s experiences so intimately, and provides a beautiful depiction of many aspects of the refugee experience.

I could see myself reading this aloud to my class, but I could also see benefit to students reading it independently. It is approachable considering it is not text heavy being written in free verse, and I think this is the kind of book students could get sucked into and have a very personal experience with.

A step from Heaven

By Na An
An tells the story of a young, Korean girl who moves to America. Through short snapshots of her growing up and adjusting to the new life in America, we see the main character, Young Ju, grow up and learn to balance her Korean values with life in America. She struggles with family dynamics in the new country and overcomes an abusive, alcoholic father while maintaining good grades to improve her future.

I would use this for literature circles because it is more advanced but still could allow my students to see themselves in the characters and the adjustments they are going through in the text. I think this text would require more background knowledge activities and discussion because of the heavy content but it would be a strong option for those looking for deeper literature.

Fitting In

By Anita Bernardo
This is a collection of short stories about young, Cuban immigrants adjusting to life in the United States. Each story follows a different young girl that struggles to find balance between Spanish and English. The author includes Spanish words and many examples of how the desire to be like others can influence a young person’s decisions and self-identity.

This could be a great book to introduce EL students to the structure of narrative stories and how to identify the theme in these types of pieces. Students could create their own personal narratives sharing a story when they were learning to adjust to life in the United States. This could improve motivation and authenticity of the assignment.

Museum Mysteries

By Steve Brezenoff
This is a typical teenage mystery-solving book reminiscent of classics like Nancy Drew and Encyclopedia Brown. In this series, Amal and her friends band together to solve mysteries that arise at her father’s Air and Space Museum. This book is about some important documents going missing that need to be found to save Amal’s father’s job.

I could see my students loving this text in our small group guided reading, or even as a read aloud during our relax and refocus time after recess. I can’t wait to slip this book into the bin next to Encyclopedia Brown and Nancy Drew. We all judge a book by its cover and I am so happy my students will be able to see this one.

The Travels of Igal ShidadA

Somali Folk tale retold by Kelly Dupre
This Somali folktale follows a man through his journey across the desert in search of a better home for his family. He asks Allah for help along the way, and realizes in the end that every one of his prayers were answered.

This story would be useful to teach theme. This story’s theme is one of perseverance and gratitude. It would work well in guided reading groups, as a shared reading or with newcomers who may be familiar with the folktale and can benefit from the Somali translation on each page.


A somali folk tale retold by marian A. Hassan
This is a scary Somali folktale that starts out with lots of blood and gore - sure to hook any classroom of readers. Dhegdheer is a monster that roams free in the Hargega Valley of Somalia, eating up little children that cross her path. The story is about a mother and her son, and eventually their good nature overcoming the evil Dhegdheer.

When I added this book to our classroom collection last week, all of my students already knew the story well. This leads me to believe that this would be an excellent tool for the level 1 and 2 English students. This story has both the Somali and English translation, and would be an excellent tool to get everyone reading - no matter their “level.” I may pair a stronger English speaker with a newcomer, and ask the newcomer to read/tell about the Somali text.

101 African-American Read-Aloud Stories

By S. Kantor
This collection of short stories, fables, songs, poetry and biographies are all meant to be read aloud in 10 minutes or less. The fables and stories are from many African countries. The biographies are of famous African Americans. The book ends with a historical section on slavery and other key events in African-American history.

One way to use this text would be as textfor a bell ringer activity. I could also supplement the African folktales with stories from many other cultures across the world, employing them as a comparative literature activity. Students could read a fable in one culture and another fable in a different culture and compare and contrast the stories themes. This would also help to incorporate a multicultural curriculum into the classroom.

Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns

By Hena Khan
This is a beautiful little rhyming book written from the perspective of a little girl telling the reader all about the different customs of Islam through colors! “Orange is the color of my henna designs. They cover my hands in leafy vines.”

This book is visually stunning! Not only is the topic engaging for my students, but the illustrations are breathtaking. This text could be used in art, a simple phonics lesson, or to support the 5th Grade Standard CC.RL 5.7: how visual elements contribute to the tone, meaning, and beauty of a text.

Inside Out & Back Again

by Thanhha Lai
Lai uses free verse poetry to tell the story of a Vietnamese refugee's transition to life in the United States through the voice of a 10-year- old girl named Ha. She describes learning English and addresses how she is bullied for being different. The story of Ha is based on Lai’s real-life experiences as an immigrant to the United States and is told in an authentic, genuine way.

Most of the book focuses on the transition to American life and EL students can relate to the content in an authentic way. For assessment, I would have students complete a writing portfolio of poems of their own experience of coming to US. Some could be completely their own creation, but others would be scaffolded and follow a particular poem in the book.

Ayeeyo's Golden Rule

by Mariam Mohamed
This story is about a 4th grade girl who moves to Texas from Somalia. She is the only muslim student in her new class. She is teased terribly, but despite it all, she follows Ayeeyo’s (grandmother) golden rule: always be helpful and kind. Eventually things get better, and her classmates learn a valuable lesson.

This is the kind of book I plan to use in the first few weeks of school. It would be a great tool to support character education, classroom expectations, and the importance of being kind or welcoming new students.

Wiil Waal

Somali Folktale retold by Kathleen Moriarty
Sultan invites the men of a village to bring him an offering of the piece of a sheep that has the power to unite and divide. A poor man puts his trust in his daughter’s clever idea and the daughter eventually wins the Sultan’s blessing to one day rule the land.

This would be a great text to use at the beginning of the school year to discuss the importance of generosity, trust and community. I could also see this text working well with guided reading groups, or newcomers due to the bilingual translations.

Through my eyes

by Tammy Wilson
This is the story of Zamzam, girl who flees Somalia during the civil war and moves to the US with her family. Over the course of the story, she learns how to deal with the prejudice she faces and finds a balance between her Somali identity and growing up as an American kid.

This would be a great text to read as a read aloud after recess. There are some aspects of Zamzam’s experience my students could relate to. I could also see this text as a useful source to read while working on personal narratives in writing.


Addasi, M. (2008). The white nights of Ramadan. Honesdale, PA: Boyds Mills Press.

Applegate, K. (2009). Home of the brave. New York: Square Fish.

An, N. (2001). A step from heaven. Asheville, NC: Front Street.

Bernardo, A. (1996). Fitting in. Houston, TX: Piñata Books.

Brezenoff, S. (2015). The case of the missing museum archives. North Mankato, MN: Stone Arch Books, a Capstone imprint.

Dupre, K., & Amir, A. (2008). The travels of Igal Shidad (S. S. Ahmed, Trans.). St. Paul, MN: Minnesota Humanities Commission.

Hassan, M. A. (2007). Dhegdheer: A scary Somali folktale. St. Paul, MN: Minnesota Humanities Commission.

Kantor, S. (1998). One-hundred-and-one African-American read-aloud stories. New York, NY: Black Dog & Leventhal.

Khan, H. (2015). Golden domes and silver lanterns: A Muslim book of colors. San Francisco, CA: Chronicle Books.

Lai, T. (2011). Inside out & back again. New York, NY: HarperCollins.

Mohamed, M. (2017). Ayeeyo's golden rule. Minneapolis, MN: Wise Ink.

Moriarty, K. (2008). Wiil Waal. St. Paul, MN: Minnesota Humanities Commission.

Wilson, T. (2016). Through my eyes. Edina, MN: Beaver's Pond Press.