Literature & Language


Getting Started on Literature on Africa

Children’s Africana Book Awards

The Children’s Africana Book Awards (CABA) are presented annually to the authors and illustrators of the best children’s and young adult books on Africa published or republished in the U.S. Africa Access and the Outreach Council of the African Studies Association (ASA) created CABA in 1991 to encourage the publication and use of accurate, balanced children’s materials about Africa.

CABA has three major objectives (1) to encourage the publication of children’s and young adult books that contribute to a better understanding of African societies and issues, (2) to recognize literary excellence, and (3) to acknowledge the research achievements of outstanding authors and illustrators.

The awards are presented in three categories: Young Children, Older Readers and New Adult (books marketed to adults but suitable for mature teens).

Bibliographies & Read-Alouds

Curriculum Units & Lesson Plans

Fallou Ngom (PI), Mouhamadou L. Diallo, David Glovsky, Abubakar Jalloh, Elhadji Djibril Diallo, Ndieme Sow, Daivi Rodima-Taylor, and other contributors. 2022. “The Life of Cerno Ibraahiima Hoore Doŋol.”

Why Teach about Ajami literacies?

You will be interested in teaching about Ajami if you teach about:

  • The spread of Islam
  • Medieval West Africa 
  • Islamic cultures, literacy, and science (e.g. Timbuktu, etc.)
  • Global networks of trade and interconnectedness with Europe and Asia, and between North Africa & Africa South of the Sahara.
  • Literacy in Africa

Access our new Teaching about Ajami page here.

  • Spoken Word Poetry Unit Featuring Malagasy Slam Poet Caylah
    Created by high school teacher and 2018 Curriculum Development Grant recipient Lee Naughton, this unit plan on spoken word poetry emphasizes the importance finding one’s voice in order to affect change. The unit includes an overview of Madagascar and Malagasy Slam Poet Caylah as a means by which to globalize youth issues such as representation and gender rights, among others, and encourage students to develop their own slam poetry in a culminating class project. 
  • Language as Evidence: Using Swahili to Understand East African History
    World history teacher Eric Beckman created a resource-rich website for educators to teach about East African history and contemporary society through classroom study of the Swahili language. These lessons are useful for teaching about the Bantu migration, Indian Ocean trade network, imperialism, colonialism, and globalization. Includes multimedia resources and editable powerpoints and worksheets for classroom use.
  • South African Short Stories: Apartheid, Civil Rights, and You
    Created by high school teacher Carol Marshall, these lesson plans will not only introduce students to a diverse group of South African writers and literature, but also help students to begin to understand how apartheid created discriminatory and despicable laws, boundaries, and limitations for those who lived in South Africa during this time period. Additionally, students will explore how race in America impacted citizens here in a profound way through a lesson plan on the Little Rock Nine.
  • Sundiata: An Epic of Old Mali Reading Guide
    This student reading guide features a timeline of the Empire of Mali, a character list from the reading, chapter by chapter comprehension questions, pulled quotations, and reading activities. 

Meet the Author



Africa is a continent rich with language diversity. There are over 3,000 languages spoken in Africa, many of which have roots to the major language families:

  • Afro-Asianic includes Arabic ancestrally native to East and North Africa, and the Arabian Peninsula
  • Nilo-Saharan
  • Nilo-Congo (A) comprised of Niger-Congo’s non-Bantu branches
  • Niger-Congo (B) mainly Bantu, Niger-Congo’s largest branch
  • Khoi-San
  • Austronesian is intrusive from Southeast Asia
  • Indo-European (not shown on map) Afrikaans, native to the Southern tip of Africa, intrusive from Europe


Languages of Africa Series

There is immense linguistic diversity in Africa, where over 3,000 languages spoken. As an introduction to specific places and countries in the continent, it is useful to engage your students with the languages spoken. This may be an entry-point to discuss the role of indigenous knowledge, literacy, and the role of colonialism.

Experience the character of different African languages through these translated proverbs: