Children’s Africa Story Hour Community Open House

Photo courtesy of CASH event coordinators

The African Studies Program hosted a Children’s African Story Hour (CASH) as a part of UW–Madison’s 175th Anniversary Community Open House, a three-day event to share the university’s innovation and impact with the greater Madison community. Children and their guardians had the opportunity to engage with and take home award-winning children’s literature that celebrated the diversity of cultures and languages across the African continent. 

“CASH has always been us going out to different spaces, but we wanted people to come and see our space,” said Olayinka Olagbegi-Adegbite, the assistant director of theAfrican Studies program. “Bringing people into the campus to see what we have been doing for over 50 years, they can put a face to our space.”

The event featured three books that previous Children’s African Story Hour events had showcased, with hands-on activities and African cuisine coinciding with each story. The first story, Bottle Tops: The Art of El Anatsui, is about a Ghanaian artist El Anatsui who created handmade sculptures from discarded bottle tops. Children were able to create their own inventions using bottle tops.

The second story, Nana Akua Goes to School, is about a girl bringing her West African grandmother, whose face bears traditional tribal markings, to meet her classmates. Staff helped children paint their faces with the identical signs of tribal marks.

The third book, The Arabic Quilt, is about a young girl who has moved from Egypt to America and wants to fit in. When her mom comes to school wearing a hijab, the girl is teased. That night, she writes a poem in Arabic about a quilt her grandmother gave her. In the end, the teacher reads the poem and gets the class to create a “quilt” of their names in Arabic. Children were able to creat

e a similar decorative ‘quilt’ with construction paper with their Arabic names.

“One of the parents was telling me that she didn’t know what to expect because she had never heard of CASH. And as she walked in, it felt like home,” said Olagbegi-Adegbite. “Stories like that bring chills.”

The African Studies Program, a unit within the International Division, began hosting Children’s African

 Story Hours in the spring of 2023 to expand their outreach outside of campus and engage with educators, students, and community members to challenge existing stereotypes about life in Africa and uplift the continent’s diversity. These biweekly reading sessions are hosted every other Monday across Madison Public Libraries and feature children’s literature selected from the Children’s Africana Book Awards.


Story by: Amara Alexander