This series is designed to teach children about countries and cultures around the world, and it does so through the eyes of a child. The books are written in the second person, from one child to another. They walk the reader through their home country, teaching about their everyday life. What would your name be if you were a girl or boy in this country? What would you call your mom and dad, or your grandma and grandpa in the native language? What would be your favorite games, toys or sports? What foods are loved by your family? These are the types of cultural facts that are addressed. Essentially, the narrators are sharing what a childhood in this country is like, through the things that are most important to children.
When requesting the specific titles to review, I tried to get variety so we could travel across different continents, experience different languages, and really see the differences in the cultures. I'm always looking for easy ways to add to our geography studies, and add cultural appreciation, and these books are a fun resource. Although the books are written for ages 4-8 years old, there is much flexibility with this age range. I read them to my older three kids, who are 5, 8, and 11, and they all appreciated them on a different level.
If You Were Me and Lived in . . . Brazil
I chose this book because last year in co-op, one of the facilitators was from Brazil and taught a Portuguese class for the kids. I knew it would be a good way to make an interesting real-life connection. We learned why Portuguese is the national language of Brazil, and as we looked at Brazil on the map in the book, one of the kids immediately went to our wall map to find it. I love it when books encourage this kind of exploration. We also learned that Brazil produces the most coffee in the world, and we noticed that the page numbers have little coffee mugs next to them! The kids made sure to tell dad that night, as he is our resident coffee drinker.
If You Were Me and Lived in . . . Italy
We requested this book because I thought it would be fun to expose the kids to some Italian. I love that each book uses many common words in the country's native language, and includes a pronunciation guide in the back. My older elementary kids really enjoy this part of each book, but have actually requested that Italian be our foreign language of choice! This book in particular gave us a lot of interesting facts about Rome, due to its influence on western civilization, and reminds us that it is the only city in the world that has another country inside of it, referring to The Catholic Church and Vatican City. The kids noticed the page numbers were marked with the Leaning Tower of Pisa and questioned why it wasn't mentioned in the book. I know every landmark can't be included, but I found that an odd choice. There are some fun facts about the Colosseum though!
If You Were Me and Lived in . . . India
The final book we chose focused on India. One of my goals for my children is to not just teach them geography and cultures, but to curate a sense of appreciation, sensitivity and wonder about the rest of the world. This book focuses on a region we haven't really studied yet, so it offered opportunity to expand our horizons a bit. My husband has also been wanting to try some Indian recipes he saw online, and though we haven't had another Foreign Cuisine night yet, I definitely want to include some of the foods that we read about in this book. The kids found another connection with the rickshaw cab in this book, as we had read a literature book earlier this year featuring rickshaws. They also really liked reading about the Taj Mahal, since they are always interested in famous architectural landmarks.
As the books are geared towards younger children, they are simply written and focus on lighter topics, and avoid things like religion or politics. They are slightly formulaic, in that we know all of the major topics that are going to be covered. I usually read the pages before showing the pictures, but my older kids always know when the favorite toy of the little sister is going to be a doll, and when they are headed to school at the end of the book. That being said, they are still informative for the older crowd who hasn't had much foreign language or world cultures exposure. The books can be a great starting point for a geography study - we like to read one during the week, look it up on the map, and maybe discuss a few topics out of them, and practice saying the different words in the target language. The kids also pointed out how the pictures varied, as some pages have only illustrations, and others have a realistic photographic background with illustrated overlays. It was an interesting touch.
Looking up photographs online is a great way to dig a little deeper, and we usually did this too. You can also cook recipes mentioned in the book, or have them research the holidays or other cultural aspects mentioned in the book, or see what rabbit trails it takes you on. I've taken one of the other books in this series to my 2nd grade literature co-op class (South Korea, for the Olympics earlier this year) and used it as part of a lesson on informational texts. There are just so many possibilities with these books, and the kids have actually asked me to get our others back out to read again!
In addition to the cultural series, Carole P. Roman also has a history series, bedtime stories, and more. We have reviewed several other titles over the years:
Mexico, France, South Korea, Norway
Australia, Portugal, Russia
Colonial America, Ancient Greece, Middle Ages, Elizabethan England
Egypt, Ancient China, Mars, Rocket-Bye
The Homeschool Review Crew is currently reviewing books from every series, so be sure to check out more reviews to see everything that the author offers!
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