Monday, September 26, 2011

Nonfiction Monday: Schools around the World

This week I am introducing my students to the theme I have chosen for the year, One World, Many Stories.  I am excited about this because I will be able to combine two of my passions, geography and reading.  A lot of the nonfiction books and fiction books that I will highlighting in the coming year will have a strong geography element.  That does not mean of course that I will stop reading other kinds of books, my interests vary too widely for me to do that.  It just means there will be a lot of books with settings other than the United States.  Today I am highlighting four books about students and schools in countries around the world.

Rain School
written and illustrated by James Rumford
Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 2010
ISBN: 978-0-547-24307-8 
Grades K-3
Reviewed from purchased copy.

It is the first day of school in Chad, Africa. Children are filling the road.
"Will they give us a notebook?" Thomas asks.
"Will they give us a pencil?”
"Will I learn to read?"

But when he and the other children arrive at the schoolyard, they find no classroom, no desks. Just a teacher. "We will build our school," she says. "This is our first lesson."
An inspiring look at the effort required for students to go to school in a village in the African country of Chad.  The students build the school that they will study in as well as the desks and stools they will use.  A nice read-a-loud for younger students that gives a glimpse of a world so very different from their own.  The illustrations are bright and colorful and create an energetic feel for the story, for the passion that drives these students and their teacher.

School Days Around the World
written by Catherine Chambers
DK Publishing, 2007
ISBN: 978-0-7566-2548-1
Reviewed from purchased copy.

School Days takes a look at an average school day in the lives of children from seven countries around the world, showing how they are all different and yet all the same.
I liked the way this book was written from the perspective of the students and what to each individual was normal.  No two schools are exactly the same, not in developing countries or developed countries. I believe the author was trying to give the reader a glimpse of some of the, sometimes major, differences between schools, while showing that some things are the same no matter where you go, things such as students playing together at recess or projects done.  The countries covered include the United States, Peru, England (Great Britain), Ghana, India, Japan, and Australia.  The book is not and does not try to be comprehensive.  Nonetheless there is much here worthy of discussion.

A School Like Mine
written and edited by UNICEF, Penny Smith and Zahavit Shalev
DK Publishing, 2007
Grade 3-6
Reviewed from purchased copy. 

Introduces children from around the world and discusses where they live, how they play, and what their schools are like.
This is my favorite of the four books.  This title covers countries from six of the seven continents (Antarctica is not covered).  What I especially liked was how they tried to show multiple students from the bigger countries.  This shows that schools vary a great deal inside as well as outside the country. The book also tries to balance rural and urban environments, providing a more comprehensive look at schools worldwide.  The numerous photographs make the information more real to the reader.  The organization is attractive and follows the format that DK's Eyewitness books have made so popular.  A great way to help broaden students view of the world.

My School in the Rain Forest: How Children Attend school Around the World
written by Margriet Ruurs
Boyds Mill Press, 2009
ISBN: 978-1-59078-601-7
Grades 2-5
Reviewed from purchased copy.

An engaging look at some of the world's most unusual schools. At a school that sits on the edge of the Sahara, students are learning to speak English from a teacher who stands in front of a Webcam in North America. These students are learning in a virtual classroom. In another part of the world, kids aren't waiting to ride the bus to school - they are waiting to hop in a boat that will take them to a school that floats on a river. And some kids don't mind heights, especially those who attend a school on the slope of a mountain in the Himalayas, in one of the most remote corners of the earth. Margriet Ruurs contacted teachers and volunteers, many of whom took cameras in hand to photograph their schools and students. In this lively photo-essay, readers get to know students - from the arid plains of southern Afghanistan to the rain forests of Guatemala - who are pursuing their dreams of a brighter future.
This book provides a nice introduction to the variety of different ways that students go to school.  It was fascinating to read about schools on boats, over the radio, in a monastery, etc.  The book focuses on the schools themselves rather than on the children.  I would have liked more information about the students, but overall it provides a glimpse into the variety of ways the world has found to educate her children.

For more great nonfiction reads, check out Nonfiction Monday, today it is being hosted at True Tales & A Cherry On Top.


  1. Heidi, What a great selection of books featuring schools around the world!

    Thanks for participating in Nonfiction Monday.

  2. Love your idea. There are so many books that will fit with your topic. I'll check back often to see what you're recommending.
    Apples with Many Seeds


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