Jaha and Jamil went down the hill
To fetch a pail of water.
They met Atu and Siwatu
And Asha with her daughter.
This is one of the many rhymes you can find in the African Mother Goose book titled Jaha and Jamil Went Down the Hill: An African Mother Goose by Virginia Kroll and Katherine Roundtree. This beautifully illustrated book contains 48 rhymes that Mother Goose might have written had she visited Africa.
The rhymes, which many children might recognize, contain different lyrics that teach about a few of the wonderful, colorful, and diverse aspects of African life, both modern and traditional. I have used this book in my classes as a resource for rhymes and as a starting point from which to tell stories and learn about African culture.
Let’s see if you can match the following rhyme to the original Mother Goose!
Bend a wire, bend a wire,
Make me a bracelet
Fast as you can.
Swerve it and curve it
And add a nice charm,
So mama will wear it
Each day on her arm.
I like to pair this rhyme with body percussion and at the end of class, I invite children to recite it as they make their own bracelets with wire and beads.
Songs from the Baobab: African Lullabies & Nursery Rhymes is another beautiful book I discovered this summer. This storybook with accompanying CD features 29 songs from 10 countries, recorded with indigenous instruments and performed by women, men, and children. All the songs, rhymes, and lullabies are traditional and capture the staccato rhythm of African children’s rhymes, teaching us aspects of each culture.
One of the songs called “Eya Be’” has an accompanying fingerplay you can play with your children. The rhyme is in the Mina dialect spoken by the Guins, who originally came from Ghana and then settled in the southern coastal region of Togo.
Learn it on this YouTube video: