Most of us will be able to recall a story or book that changed our mind, made us think anew or invoked a stronger emotional response than many tragic news stories. Fiction can be a powerful tool for generating understanding, interest and debate.
For this feature we have trawled the internet to find recommendations for books which help with teaching and learning of various global topics; see the list below.
We have also created a spreadsheet of a few books we have read and enjoyed, and which have added to our understanding of the world in some way.
For early years and primary teachers, the books could be used to help students develop their views and opinions on a variety of global topics, to explore their values and to build on their speaking and listening skills. It is also a way to approach topics that may be challenging or upsetting to them, such as war and conflict.
For secondary teachers, these books could be used when tackling challenging or controversial topics in citizenship lessons, in English lessons where literature is being used to teach about global triumphs and problems, and for humanities students who want to further their understanding by reading around topics they have studied in school.
As well as these suggestions, you can browse through our database to find resources tagged English literature/story:
We thought you might enjoy this 2-minute clip of a book being made… an ancient art!
Some useful lists of books created by others
- Amnesty International UK’s website has a lot of information on literature exploring human rights issues, including books for children: Books | Amnesty International UK.
- The Guardian has a book list around the theme of tolerance: Books to breed tolerance: what children can read after the terrorist attacks in Paris – includes recommendations of books for both younger and older children
- An extensive (although a little hard to pick apart) blog post with ideas for books about war and peace, for all ages but predominantly primary: Children’s Literature and Global Issues.
- Books suitable for KS2-5 on the theme of war: Aurora University Phillips Library – Juvenile and Young Adult Collection
- A Canadian reading list of books which tackle the topic of immigration, suitable for primary students: Children’s books about immigration.
- If you are teaching about the countries of Africa, here are a couple of lists:
12 Children’s Books About Africa (suitable for primary students)
and Good Reads’ Top Children’s / YA Books Set in Africa (for older students)
- Reading about the environment may not be the first teaching method that springs to mind but there are many, many books themed around its destruction and our role caring for it: Powell’s Books – Children’s Environmental Fiction
- The author Beverley Naidoo has written lots of books exploring global topics such as refugees and apartheid, suitable for KS2-4.
- Many schools are using the methods of Philosophy for Children to develop critical thinking and to teach about complex global problems. This (American) ‘Teaching Children Philosophy’ website has many suggestions for books to generate philosophical discussions with primary students: Book Modules – Teaching Children Philosophy.
- The Literacy Shed blog has a list of suggested stories with teaching ideas and accompanying videos for use when teaching about other cultures with primary students: The Other Cultures Shed – The Literacy Shed.
- A list of story books for primary students to help them explore different countries around the world, ordered by continent: Read Around the World | Delightful Children’s Books.
- Not quite a reading list, but the World Stories website has a collection of stories read by children in their home language and English: World Stories.
Do you have any favourite works of literature or children’s stories that you’d like to recommend as great ways to explore global issues? Use the comments box below to tell us what has worked for you in class.
The photo at the top of the page is ‘reading’ by Brendan Murphy on Flickr and used under a Creative Commons licence.