Summer reading tips for parents



Habari gani? Do you know what that means?

Posted by Tonisha Kimble on

"Habari gani" is Kiswahili for How are you? or How's the news with you?

Kwanzaa is an African-American celebration of life from 26 December to 1 January.


Dr. Maulana Karenga introduced the festival in 1966 to the United States as a ritual to welcome the first harvests to the home. Dr. Karenga created this festival for African-Americans as a response to the commercialism of Christmas.


The symbols of Kwanzaa includes crops (mzao) 🎍 which represents the historical roots of African-Americans in agriculture and also the reward for collective labor. The mat (mkeka)  lays the foundation for self- actualization. The candle holder (kinara) 🕎 reminds believers in the ancestral origins in one of 55 African countries. Corn/maize (muhindi) 🌽  signifies children and the hope associated in the younger generation. Gifts (Zawadi) 🎁  represent commitments of the parents for the children. The unity cup (Kkimbe cha Umoja) 🍷  is used to pour libations to the ancestors. Finally, the seven candles (mishumaa saba) remind participants of the seven principles and the colors in flags of African liberation movements -- 3 red ❤️, 1 black 🖤, and 3 green 💚.


Gifts are exchanged. On 31 December participants celebrate with a banquet of food often cuisine from various African countries.

Check out our Kwanzaa reading list! These books exemplify the 7 principles, and are also fun to read too 😉

1. Umoja / Unity - Can We All Just Get Along?  Can We All Just Get Along is about Nandi growing up in a household of older siblings that battle over everything – who gets the front seat, who’s looking at who, and who called it first. She has her mind set on teaching her siblings how to get along with each other by example and through song. Nandi has wholeheartedly embraced that she is her Brothers’ and her Sister’s Keeper.

2. Kujichagulia / Self-Determination - Madam C.J. Walker Builds a Business    From the world of Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls comes a story based on the life of Madam C.J. Walker, America’s first female self-made millionaire.

3. Ujima / Collective Work and Responsibility - Ana & Andrew series  Ana & Andrew are always on an adventure! They live in Washington, DC with their parents, but with family in Savannah, Georgia and Trinidad, there's always something exciting and new to learn about African American history and culture. 

4. Ujamaa / Cooperative Economics - Meko and The Money Tree  Meko learns a valuable lesson. Think of your money tree as your potential. There is a place inside of you, full of potential and possibilities. Money doesn’t grow on trees, and you can only spend each dollar once. Choose to spend our money on things that give us the ability to make more money in the future.

5. Nia / Purpose - Call Us What We Carry  The luminous poetry collection by #1 New York Times bestselling author and presidential inaugural poet Amanda Gorman captures a shipwrecked moment in time and transforms it into a lyric of hope and healing. In Call Us What We Carry, Gorman explores history, language, identity, and erasure through an imaginative and intimate collage. Harnessing the collective grief of a global pandemic, these poems shine a light on a moment of reckoning and reveal that Gorman has become our messenger from the past, our voice for the future.

6. Kuumba / Creativity - Jake the Fake: Keeps it Real
  Jake can barely play an instrument, not even a kazoo. And his art? It’s better suited for Pictionary than Picasso. Which is a real problem because Jake just faked his way into the Music and Art Academy for the gifted and talented (and Jake is pretty sure he is neither). More jokester than composer, Jake will have to think of something quick before the last laugh is on him.

7. Imani / Faith - Mama's Nightingale: A Story of Immigration and Separation  After Saya's mother is sent to an immigration detention center, Saya finds comfort in listening to her mother's warm greeting on their answering machine. To ease the distance between them while she's in jail, Mama begins sending Saya bedtime stories inspired by Haitian folklore on cassette tape. Moved by her mother's tales and her father's attempts to reunite their family, Saya writes a story of her own--one that just might bring her mother home for good.

To learn more about Kwanzaa, take a listen to the audiobook "Seven Candles for Kwanzaa". Narrated by the amazing Alfre Woodard.

Using the Nguzo Saba, or "seven principles" of Kwanzaa, the author Angela Shelf Medearis has created an unforgettable story that shows how family members can pull together, for their own good and the good of the entire community.

A perfect introduction to Kwanzaa, this book will teach children all about the traditions and practices that make it a special winter holiday.

Activities at the end of the book include making your own cow-tail switch and baking benne cakes.

An inclusive rhyming story celebrating the joys of Christmas and Kwanzaa! Soulful holidays give readers a sense of the soulful nature of both Christmas and Kwanzaa in a way that honors the Black and African American experience.

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