Illustrated books open children's minds to a world full of wonders
The fact that life extends far beyond Hong Kong pervades our home. We have a toy globe, a desk mat printed with a map of the world and framed photos from my children's visits abroad.
This global awareness hasn't stopped my elder daughter from telling her friends while I was away in the United States that her mummy had gone to Germany, or that her very British teacher is from America.
Much like many cities in China end with zhou (Hangzhou, Guangzhou and Wenzhou), the Chinese names of major countries end with guo, hence my daughter's erroneous proclamations. Surprisingly, she remembers the country wrongly but is able to translate it into its correct English name.
A map of the world is a handy tool at home. I used it to show my daughter the proximity of Madagascar to the African continent, to help her understand that the animals from the animated movie with that name are much like the African safari animals she studied in school. I also pointed to the Caribbean when she asked why Raffi was singing Day-O (The Banana Boat Song) in pidgin language.
After seeing my daughter and her friend drawing their own maps on a recent play date, I picked up a copy of Joan Sweeney's Me on the Map to share with them. This picture book starts with simple crayon drawings of a floor plan of a girl's room, then progresses to more and more complex renderings of her street, town, country and, finally, the world.
Maps and Globes by Jack Knowlton further explores maps with an introduction to such terms as latitude, longitude and elevation. It even covers the history of mapmaking, informing schoolchildren that maps are not always accurate.
A favourite in our home is People by Peter Spier, with its detailed illustrations and sparse text. Differences are celebrated and accentuated as they are presented in clusters of illustrations in this large-format book. At the beginning, there are 10 depictions of mothers with their babies, each with different ethnic dress and various ways the babies are held or carried.
Also included is a two-page spread with two dozen types of games played in different countries. Another cluster shows two dozen homes, from an American tepee to a Turkish cliff-dwelling to a Swiss chalet.
On the subject of occupations, teachers and doctors are conspicuously absent. Instead, we are treated to illustrations of a matador, gondolier, snake charmer and tea-leaf picker, among other global workers.
Spier focuses on many other subjects that children care about: the kinds of pets that different peoples keep, the feasts and holidays celebrated around the world, the foods from different cultures.
Parents can introduce their children to world travel through fun and games at the CMF World Carnival at Cyberport on May 5.
Children can purchase "passports" that they can use to collect stamps at various "continents" set up at the fairground. For more information, go to cmf.org.hk
Annie Ho is board chairwoman of Bring Me A Book Hong Kong, a non-profit organisation dedicate to improving children's literacy by reading aloud to them bringmeabook.org.hk