Reading Around the World December 30, 2016 – Posted in: Booklist Updates, Our Favourites – Tags: , , , , ,

Q. Hello. Our whole school is going to be participating in a ‘Reading Around the World’ theme next term.  Each class is going to read a book set in a different country, and will be finding out about that country. Please could you recommend some fiction set in different countries, which include plenty of detail about that country’s people and culture? We also need some non-fiction books to help the children with their own research.

A.   There are plenty of traditional stories, stories from other cultures and non-fiction books available which are wonderful for allowing children an insight into a world outside of their own!

For a fabulous non-fiction start pick-up Children Just Like Me.  This recent release is an update of the book of the same title that was released in the mid-90s. Like it’s predecessor this book is a really personal look at children from all types of cultures. It is this personal feel that really makes the book special, as you get to know each child and their culture in their own words. Packed with photography of children, their friends and family, home and school, Children Just Like Me vividly illustrates many different and diverse cultures.

For other non-fiction on the countries of the world, try the vibrant and engaging ‘Fact Cat’ series for KS1 or ‘Journey Through’ for KS2.  The ‘Fact Cat’ series by Wayland covers lots of different KS1 topics, and includes a number of fascinating books on different countries.  With large colour photographs, accessible information and just 1 or 2 sentences on each page, this series is also perfect for beginner readers.

Journey Through takes more advanced readers on a trip through exciting world countries using different modes of transport, from train and car to bicycle and private jet. Along the way the traveller visits highlighted places both well known and less known, and learns lots of exciting facts about history, language, culture and much more.

Picture book stories from other cultures are some of the very best types of books to share with a class, as they can really open the children’s eyes to life in different countries.  Here are just a small selection of our favourites.

Eileen Browne’s Handa’s Surprise and Handa’s Hen have become modern classics and must-have books in any foundation and KS1 classroom. Both texts is full of love and humour and the brilliant illustrations bring the colour of Kenya to life. They are also perfect for class participation and role play.
Mama Panya’s Pancakes is a beautiful book by Mary and Rich Chamberlin, with wonderfully subtle illustrations by Julia Cairns. It tells the story of a mother and her son going to buy pancake ingredients and ending up inviting the entire village to join them. It’s a book about sharing and community and would work particularly well with KS1 classes. It also includes a great pancake recipe!


From Africa to Japan, and the world of sumo wrestling! The Strongest Boy in the World is a fun, action-packed story about Kaito, who dreams of being a famous wrestling champion, and the super-strong heroine Hana who trains him. The story is based on a famous Japanese tale from the 13th century.

For KS2, Ruby’s Wish is another story that packs a lot of girl-power.  This lovely book, based upon the inspirational story of the author’s grandmother, highlights old Chinese traditions and how one little girl’s dream of learning caused great conflict.  Ruby is a character with a strong will of her own, who longs to go to university. The book is beautifully illustrated and deals with a difficult subject matter extremely eloquently.


Mirror, by Jeannie Baker, is another wonderful story for KS2.  This inventive, wordless picture book follows two boys on opposite sides on the world through one day in their lives. In Sydney, Australia, one boy and his family wake up, eat breakfast, and head out for a busy day of shopping. Meanwhile, in a small village in Morocco, another boy and his family go through their own morning routines and set out to a bustling market. Readers are invited to compare, page by page, the activities and surroundings of children in two different cultures. Their lives may at first seem quite unalike, but a closer look reveals that there are many things, some unexpected, that connect them as well!  The publisher, Walker Books, has produced some Teacher’s Notes for this book which you may find useful.

If you’re after a longer fiction read for years 5 or 6, try Oranges In No Man’s Land by Elizabeth Laird. This stunning story of a ten-year-old girl who risks death to make a life-saving dash through war-torn Beirut paints a vivid and disturbing picture of a city devastated by war.  As the plight of refugees continue to be a regular part of our daily news, books such as this are important for children in the UK, allowing them a deeper understanding of the effects of war.  I also love Whale Boy, set on a Caribbean island and with a conservation theme, and the wonderful, award-winning Journey to the River Sea, set in Brazil.


For more fiction and non-fiction books from Around the World have a browse of our book lists for KS1, Lower KS2 and Upper KS2.