Once Upon a Time to Literacy and Beyond

Spring is near, fairy folk are about! The oral tradition of nursery rhymes, folk tales, fairy stories and legends offer up the perfect opportunity to share a story with your children. As a librarian, I often encounter the request, “I need some stories to read to my children.”

“Have you considered a fairy tale?” is my first response. Fairy and folktales are quite often overlooked when it comes to reading a good story.

Part of the cultural makeup of any society is folklore. Folklore consists of fairy stories, fables, tall tales, legends and epics. Marchen, German in origin, is the term storytellers use for tales of enchantment or folktales, like the Grimm’s collection.

Nursery rhymes are paramount to children’s literacy. Rhyming words and couplets, known as word families by teachers, help children explore sounds, a basic skill needed in language development. Toddlers experience that language is reciprocal, give and take. Nursery rhymes are the perfect gateway for this type of early conversation.

Australian storyteller and award-winning author Mem Fox reminds parents that “Children who have memorized eight nursery rhymes by the age of three are always the best readers by the age of eight.”
Jack Be Nimble is a fun way to build on word families, which ultimately lead to reading. Mary Had a Little Lamp by Jack Lechner is a retelling of the classic nursery rhyme with a lamp instead of a lamb. Rebecca Emberley’s retelling of Chicken Little with Turkey Lurky and Henny Penny along with that pesky fox is a fun way to share the age-old tale. My Very First Mother Goose, edited Iona Opie and illustrated by Rosemary Wells, features a nice selection of nursery rhymes. Nina Crews’ The Neighborhood Mother Goose is a fun read as well with photographs to accompany the nursery rhymes.

Tulsa City-County Libraries feature many new retellings of classic tales, thanks to authors such as Jon Sciezka and Lane Smith. There are also the tried-and-true retellings from author San Souci, along with the well-known librarian Margaret Read Macdonald’s tales. Thanks to Mary Pope Osborne, the magic behind the Magic Tree House series, the library has funny fairy tales to share with the little ones such as Sleeping Bobby and Kate and the Beanstalk.

Many folktales have been rewritten into novels. One of the more popular is Ella Enchanted, a Cinderella story for tweens. Phillip Pullman’s I Was a Rat is a witty tale of Cinderella turned upside down. J. K. Rowling’s The Tale of Beedle the Bard contains five short fables for Harry Potter fans. To find these tales in the library, go to 398.2 for classic folktales and the fiction stacks for the new retellings of traditional stories.

Children also enjoy the imagery and power struggles from ancient times. Greek myths are explored in the new movie Percy Jackson and the Olympians. Before Hollywood called, Rick Riordan created the book series with the same title. This tale is one of outrageous adventure written on a remedial level for reluctant readers. Neil Gaiman, the recent Newbery winner, has a new mythology tale, Odd and the Frost Giants, a quirky retelling of Norse legends.

Your fairytale begins at the library. We look forward to helping write the next chapter.

Categories: Books and Literacy