Multicultural Picture Book

Ms. Rachel Epley

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"Rain School" written and illustrated by James Rumford was published in 2010 by HMH Books for Young Readers

This read aloud is planned for second to third graders.

"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."

James Rumford, who lived in Chad as a Peace Corps volunteer, fills these pages with vibrant ink-and-pastel colors of Africa and the spare words of a poet to show how important learning is in a country where only a few children are able to go to school."

2015 Read to Me Conference

Background Information

About the Author:

James Rumford likes to travel and has spent time as a Peace Corps volunteer in Africa. He writes several books based on his experiences during his travels.

Chad, Africa:

  • At independence in 1960, the government of Chad made education compulsory and free at primary level. This means all children should attend primary school from the age of six and stay in school for 9 years.
  • But although attendance is compulsory, only around three-quarters of children are enrolled in school. Culturally, it is seen as less important for girls to receive an education, so often girls are kept at home.
  • And though education is meant to be free, lack of adequate funding often means schools ask for some payments towards teacher salaries. This makes education not affordable for some families.
  • As in many places throughout Africa, a good education is precious –only one in four Zambians finish secondary school.

  • SOS Children is a group that helps children learn in 45 different African countries. It ensures that all the children in its care go to school. Where there are no schools, we build one. This means all children in a community have the chance to receive a quality education.


Rain School is a book about children in Africa who go to school, eager to learn, despite their troubles. It was written by a man named James Rumford. He was a teacher in Chad, Africa as a Peace Corps volunteer, and wrote and illustrated this book based off his experiences.

Prepared Questions and Vocab

Before reading, hand out vocabulary graphic organizers to the students and write the vocab words on the white board:



Questions to ask students:

1. Show the students the cover of the book and prompt them with the question: "What do you think this book is about?" Afterwords, clarify that the book is about African children in who rebuild their school every year because the rain destroys it.

2. When the story says "He gathers grass and saplings..." ask the students to pull out their graphic organizers and fill them out according to what they believe the word "sapling" means.

3. After reading the paragraph that has the phrase "Their notebooks are rumpled from learning." tell the students to fill out their graphic organizers according to what they think the word "rumpled" means.

4. When the rain destroys the school in the story, discuss with the students how they would feel if their school was destroyed by rain.

5. After finishing the story, prompt the students with the question, "How might you feel if you had to go to school in Chad, Africa and build your school again each year? Would you be exited to learn?"

6. After discussing, instruct the students to compare their vocabulary words and definitions in their graphic organizers and go over the correct definitions with them.

sapling (noun) - a young tree, especially one with a slender trunk.

rumpled (verb) (past tense of the word rumple) - to make something wrinkled

Synonyms: Crumple, crease, wrinkle, crinkle, scrunch up


1.) I chose this book because I liked the bright colors of the cover and I noticed that it was written and illustrated by the same person. I felt this book was a good match because the children could relate to going to school even though the school itself was made of different materials but they might not know about what it is like for the students in Chad, Africa.

2.) They all seemed interested in the book after I asked them what they thought the book might be about. The students all participated in the graphic organizer and knew how to fill it out. Most did not know the definition of the two vocabulary words but did know how to spell them so I felt like the words were a very appropriate choice for building their knowledge. Afterwards, I asked the question of what the book was about and most could verbally tell me when called on. I also asked if they liked the book and they all said "yes."

3.) Next time I would ask more questions about the differences and similarities between the materials used in the class and the ones used in this school in Chad, Africa. Also, I would give the students more wait time when I ask them questions. I didn't really give them enough time.

4.) Implementing multicultural children's literature that is culturally and linguistically diverse relative to my elementary students has enlightened them on how life might be like for students that go to school in Chad, Africa. They seemed really surprised to hear that the students had mud desks and some students even gasped after I read the sentence that the school slowly disappears until there is almost nothing left. When I asked students how they would feel if their school was destroyed by rain, I got mixed reviews. Some said they were sad, while others said the story made them happy because they don't want to go to school if they have a mud desk.

Additional Information

Ms. Rachel Epley is a student at Wichita State University. She is currently a teacher candidate at Isley Elementary School in Ms. Mallory Larson's second grade class.