Folktales tell a short story based on oral traditions. Add a bit of magic and a moral to the story in which good defeats evil, and the folktale becomes a fairy tale -- a genre of folktale. Teaching children folk stories and fairy tales offers a number of practical benefits, including sharing cultural traditions between generations and exploring important life lessons. Children develop a sense of imagination when reading and studying folktales, and retelling the tales to others helps practice important communication skills.
Life Parables and Cultural Bridges
Many folktales use morals as an important message or theme. Tales with morals create a foundation to talk with children about important life lessons. Historical folktales written by Mason Locke Weems claim that a young George Washington admitted chopping down a cherry tree to his father, and a youthful Abraham Lincoln walked miles to return borrowed reading books. Both fictional tales present an important life lesson for moral development for young readers in stressing the importance of telling the truth and keeping a promise, even when the action causes distress. Artist Grant Wood recreated the fictional story in a famous painting of Washington with an ax to remind both children and adults of this life lesson. Many cultures share folktales using various story titles and featuring characters with different names. Teaching folktales also shows children that diverse cultures share important traditions.
Children learn communication skills by talking with others and by developing an interesting message to attract the attention of listeners. Retold folktales allow young people a way to practice memory skills by learning stories to share with others. Children sometimes add a unique interpretation of the story and give personality to the characters to spin the tale with a personal touch. Reading folktales and listening to tales also helps reinforce the child's basic listening, grammar and vocabulary skills.
Folktales typically have a plot and a core of general and supporting characters. Children listen to story details and learn the story line to share with peers or family members, and this helps develop the child's ability to recall details and to describe personalities and actions. Folktales also help children understand that stories typically have basic elements, including a beginning, middle and an end that leaves the listener with closure. Teachers can build on this story foundation to teach more sophisticated literature.
Imagination and Morals
Extremely young children accept fictional characters with special or magical skills and talents, and teaching literature through folktales helps children develop a sense of imagination. Folktales give children easy-to-follow examples of storytelling for use in their own fictional writing. Talking about folktales and teaching fairy tales in a formal classroom setting gives the teacher opportunities to explore imagination and reality with children and to discuss the difference between the two different concepts.
- University of Virginia Papers of George Washington: Learning About George Washington
- University of Chicago Divinity School: What Is a Folk or Fairy Tale?
- iEARN: Share -- Folk Tales
- Neumann University Institute for Sport, Spirituality and Character Development: Storytelling Essential to Develop Moral Reasoning
- Weber State University: Introduction
- University of Tartu; Fairy Tales in Teaching English Language Skills and Values in School Stage II; Maria Lepin
- Journal of the Imagination in Language Learning and Teaching; The Magic of Folktales for Teaching English and Culture; Planaria Price
- Voices; Unfair Use of Folklore; Paul Rapp
- Jupiterimages/liquidlibrary/Getty Images