I Lost My Tooth in Africa

Multicultural Read-Aloud

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"I Lost My Tooth in Africa" by Penda Diakite and illustrated by Baba Wague Diakite was published by Scholastic Press in 2006.

This read aloud is planned for 3rd graders. This picture book is about a girl named Amina who travels to Bamako, Mali in Africa where she looses her tooth and receives two chicken from the African Tooth Fairy. The book, written by a 14-year-old has won the award for Best Book for Young Children sponsored by the African Studies Association.

This heart-warming tale interweaves Standard English with Bambara, the national language of Bamako, Mali. The illustrator, who is also the author's father, helps the reader to understand the meaning of these words by bringing them to life in his illustrations which also appeals to children. This book is also a great introduction into African culture.

Background Preparation of the Picture Book Read Aloud and Vocabulary Presentation

Author and Illustrator

The author, Penda, was born in Portland, Oregon and wrote this story when she was only eight years old. She based the story on the true story of how her younger sister lost her tooth while they were visiting family in Mali Africa. Her father, the illustrator for this book, grew up in Bamako, Mali with his grandmother tending herds and listening to stories told by the elders of his community before moving with his mother. He would eventually move to the US but visits Africa with his family often.
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Customs in West African Culture

Interestingly enough, when I researched online about the different customs mentioned in the book the only sources I could find all referred to the book itself. So, I couldn't find any information on why children are given chickens for their lost teeth but I did find information on other cultural events mentioned in the book. For example, the children play a game called tègèré tillon. In the glossary at the back of the book it says this is a "Bambara (national language of Bamako, Mali) name for a game which involves singing and clapping, where children take turns dancing in the center of a circle." There is also mention of taking bucket baths.

This method of bathing consists of filling a bucket of water, usually only around 8 ounces and using a small cup to pour over yourself as you wash your body. If you're lucky and have time, you can boil some of the water before hand, which takes about an hour and can be messy as you have to tend to the coals. Amina also talks about how much time her family spends outside.

After dinner, neighbors and friends come to her family's compound and spend time in groups talking, braiding hair, and playing games. This is common in most West African countries including Mali. This may be mostly due to tradition. Before modern technology was invented people spent time together, outside in cool weather doing what Amina's family did. The lack of available technology is still the situation in most places in West Africa and so the tradition continues. It's not even mentioned that Amina's family has electricity which could be why they go to sleep when it gets dark and wake up when the sun rises.

Evaluation Criteria for Multicultural Children's Literature

1. Element: Portray cultural accuracy and authenticity of characters- 'insiders' as author of literature


Pages 3 and 4 talk about living with extending family in a compound

Pages 3 and 4 also talk about eating food with right hand, gathered around

1 big bowl

Pages 5 and 6 talk about spending a lot of time outdoors with family and


2. Element: Be rich in cultural details


Pages 3 and 4 talk about different animals that are kept

Pages 4, 5, 17 and 18 show building structure and design used

Pages 4, 5, 7, 16, and 22 best illustrate clothing worn in that area

Page 16 shows how food is made by more than one person

Page 20 shows how some items are carried on top of the head

3. Element: Demonstrate unique language or style


Page 9 says tègèré tillon which is a type of game

Page 13 says shey keeleew which means eggs

Page 19 says Kawn-Bay for goodbye

*The language used for these examples is Bambara which is the national

language of Bamako.*

Two Vocabulary Words

1. Cluster: a group of similar things or people positioned or occurring closely together

2. Compound where people live: cluster of buildings in an enclosure, having a shared or associated purpose, such as the houses of an extended family

I will teach these words by having each of the students create a word poster. The word poster should have a cluster of building the students would include in their compound if that is the way their family lived. The students will need white card stock paper, pencils, and crayons to color with for this activity.

Instructional Sequence

1. "Today, we are going to read a book called, "I Lost My Tooth in Africa". (1)Raise your hand if you've ever lost a tooth." (Students will raise their hands) "Okay, now keep your hands raised if you've ever lost a tooth away from home." (Some students will keep their hands raised) (2)What did you do with your tooth ______?" (Call on the students with their hand up)

2. "The reason I'm asking is because we are about to read a book is about a girl named Amina who is traveling from Portland, Oregon (show on map) to Bamako, Mali in Africa (show on map). She has a lose tooth but she doesn't want to loose it until she get to Africa because she is told the African Tooth Fairy will give her a chicken for her tooth! So, let's find out how she gets to Africa and if the African Tooth Fairy will really give her a chicken."

3. Page one: Review what the word continent means by asking the class, (3)"who remembers what the word continent means?"

4. Page one: (4)"Do you think the African Tooth Fairy will really give her a chicken for her tooth? Let's find out."

5. Page 2: (5)"What does compound mean in this story?" (Call on students for answer)

6. "Very good, let's keep reading."

7. Page 15: (6)"What is a cluster?" (Call on students for answer)

8. At the end of the story, review the two vocabulary words by saying, (7)"now who remembers what cluster means?" and (8)"who remembers what compound means?"

6. "Very good, now we're going to draw what these words mean. How do you think we can do that?" (Call on students to answer if one of them guesses the activity correctly then confirm that it is what they will be doing)

7. "Yes, you are going to draw a cluster of buildings in your compound. Now, I want you guys to draw the type of buildings you would have in your family's compound if that was how your family lived. For example, you would draw houses but how many? Remember you need space for your aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents. You would also need a space where food in made right?"

8. Does anyone have any questions?

9. Hand out papers

10. "Don't forget to color your drawing!"

*(1)(2)(3)(4)(5)(6)(7)(8) are how many questions are asked during the lesson*


I selected this book because my students were going to read another story in their Treasures book that was also about a girl in Africa. I wanted to connect to that story so I chose I Lost My Tooth in Africa.

The book matched the funds of knowledge this particular class had by connecting it to the story in the Treasures book. The other story was a about a young girl who gets a goat and then earns enough money to go to school. The images in the story depict rural Africa just the book I chose.

The strengths of this read aloud were that I could connect it to another story they read and I could connect her experience with losing a tooth to experiences my students have had. They really enjoyed answering questions and trying to predict what they thought would happen. The strength in the vocabulary lesson was that they got to draw pictures of what the words meant.

While some parts of the vocabulary lesson went well, others did not. They normally work on about five vocabulary words throughout a whole week and when I tried to teach two new vocabulary words they got confused. The activity I had them do, the word poster, was also new and something they don’t normally do with vocabulary which I think also confused them. In the future, I will spend a little more time explaining the vocabulary and that we were going to do something a little different. I would also have them use two pieces of paper, one for each word so they have space to complete a word poster for both words.

Implementing multicultural children’s literature that is culturally and linguistically diverse relative to my elementary students was helped me to draw upon my students’ experiences and their own culture to teach something new.

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