Monday, October 10, 2022

RA RA Read: Folktales in storytime

I used to periodically see blog posts lamenting the death of folktale picture books. I haven't seen too many recently - I guess everyone has just accepted their demise. I'm in two minds about this. On the one hand, I do wish more kids enjoyed folktales. They're rich in cultural history, language, and are just fun! On the other hand, they are usually too long to use in storytime and most kids won't sit still for them.

I have improved the circulation of our folktale collection by moving it into the picture book neighborhood (which includes "Nursery" tales and Mother Goose, princess stories, and Bible stories). I frequently do a folktale-themed outreach to the four year old kindergartens in November and I've done a big Fairy Tale Adventure program several times in the past. I don't expect these titles to ever have the circulation numbers of contemporary picture books, but I do have a slate of titles that I recommend to parents and teachers and which work well in storytimes, especially with preschool and kindergarten.

When I read folktales, I don't read word-for-word (well, I rarely do that for anything). I add in my own words and interjections, additional repetition if I sense the kids losing interest, or cut longer passages. Sometimes the kids will be absorbed and I'll go straight through; more often I'll adapt it to my audience.

Jessica Souhami
  • I don't remember where I encountered these folktales - it was within the last ten years. They have clicked really well with my audiences. The repetition, humor, and simple illustrations make them perfect choices for storytimes.
    • No Dinner
    • Foxy
    • Sausages
    • Honk, Honk Goose
Margaret Read MacDonald
  • A classic storyteller and folktale writer. I haven't found that all of her stories work as well with storytimes as some have claimed, but these (Squeaky door especially) are perennial favorites.
    • The Squeaky Door
    • Give up Gecko
    • Fat Cat
    • Party Croc
Individual titles
  • Rabbit's Snow Dance by Joseph Bruchac 
    • I use this every year and the kids adore it. There are several parts they can join in on.
  • Busy-Busy Little Chick by Janice Harrington 
  • Monkey by Gerald McDermott
  • Grandma and the Great Gourd by Chitra Divakaruni
    • This is the same story as Souhami's No Dinner. It's a colorful, hilarious version.
Flannel Boards
  • I also have several folktales that I tell in concert with the kids. The repetition and cumulation of many stories lends itself well to flannel board storytelling.
    • Enormous Carrot
    • Red Hen by Rebecca Emberley
    • Old woman and her pig
    • Gingerbread man (fractured)


Cassandra Gelvin said...

I am wondering what you mean by folktales. I thought folktales were stories that have been around for decades, if not centuries, and are generally passed around orally. Yet, you describe Margaret Read MacDonald as a "folktale writer." Using my definition, one cannot really be a "folktale writer." So what do you mean by folktale?

Jennifer said...

Eh, "reteller" is probably a better word. There's a whole other discussion re. who is authorized to retell folktales of different cultures, what sources they use, etc. A lot of the older "traditional" or "classic" folktale picture books have very dicey antecedents and I try to stay away from them (besides kids don't sit for them anyways).

You could go the other way and discuss at what point does a story enter into the folktale canon, like urban legends and stuff.

I'm really not trying to define anything - just looking at what folktales (which would be those older stories around for generations, retold or rewritten by authors like MacDonald) work in a storytime setting.