How and Why to Teach Fairy Tales?

By Book Talk, Children's Book Award, Fairy Tales, International School No Comments

Building imagination.

What is a fairy tale?

Recently, on a Whatsapp group, I received a BBC description on Swedish folklore. It described how folklores had a profound psychological impact on people. It made me think about Grimm’s fairy tales, stories I grew up reading. These were written by Grimm and Wilhelm who published the Grimms’ Fairy Tales.  Many experts have analysed these stories and have their various viewpoints. Some describe the fairy tales as evil and I wonder how it does these stories resonate with our present lifestyles? Many believe it to be an expression, an expression to help build imagination and intrigue.

So, what is a fairy tale? Fairy tales are stories and fall under the folklore genre. Fairy tales are unique in their style. They have elements like royalty, magic, hero/heroine, villain, problem & solution, a universal lesson. Fairy tales begin with “Once upon a time” and the ending with “happily ever after”.  However, all fairy tales do not start and end in that fashion.  There are other fairy tales like Puss in Boots, Little Red Riding Hood, that doesn’t end with “happily ever after”. The French writer, Perrault wrote Cinderella, The Sleeping Beauty, Blue Beard, The Fairies, Tom Thumb and other stories that were later translated in many different languages.

Should I teach it?

Elements of a Fairy Tale

Hannah McCarley, in her research called: From Once Upon a Time to Happily Ever After: Grimms’ Fairy Tales and Early Childhood Development, describes the social and emotional impact on the child. These stories make compelling gender claims. In many stories, for example, beauty is made to be an essential aspect for growing girls, and this is seen in the tale Cinderella. In Snow White, the female character tries hard to be the most beautiful person, a sign of vanity. It indicates that the physical appearance is essential for a woman and the man wants to possess her as a piece of art.  An article written by Stephen Evans on BBC Culture describes the fairy tales as being “the twisted world of Grimm’s Fairy Tales”. He says, “these stories have mutilation, cannibalism, infanticide and incest.”He continues to say, should they have been video games for children, they might have probably been banned or received some flak.” So, should I be teaching it?

Why should I teach it?

These stories are parts of historical literature and can be used as a discussion when relating to research. Fairy tales can be used to discuss gender roles and other cultural behaviours. Fairy tales teach students some realities of life. They provide an opportunity to discuss the cultural heritage as history. Some authors believe that fairy tales are a bridge between fantasy and realities of life. However, fairy tales are a part of literature. The very fact that it has not faded away makes it a classic. So teaching it in the present, needs teachers to be creative in a way that fairy tales build a bridge to understanding the past with the gift. It can also be taught using the literary style of writing and keeping the elements of the fairy tale in mind.

How should I teach it?

The News Republic, on the other hand, agrees with the violence of the fairy tales but claims that the encourage heroic deeds for the young boys and help fearful girls to become brave but finally to settle with a prince. How appropriate are these stories for the present-day lives? How can we use this literature to help students think, wonder and transform?

You can use the French and English fairy tales and compare it with the Indian tales that have similar fairy tales features. You can use stories like the Ivory and the Fairy Princess,  Diamond Cut Diamond, Folklore of Bengal, and some printed ones are Anklet for a Princess (similar to Cinderella) and Indian Fairy Tales.  (Read Write Document sample)

What can librarians do with fairy tales?

Book Discussion & Writing

Librarians can use fairy tales as a unit of discussion for a month.

  1. Discuss cultural differences.
  2. Compare and contrast fairy tales from different countries.
  3. Discuss gender aspects.
  4. Craft different endings to the fairy tales.
  5. Use the fairy tale elements to rewrite it to make it appealing to the modern setting. For example: Use the Jack and the Beanstalk and let the plot deal with current issues. Ask questions like, What if Jack was climbing up the ladder of success, instead of the tree. What would his experience be? Describe what he would see, what are the different aspects that may cause his fall, who would be the ogre? And how would Jack reconcile at the end? Another example: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, change the stepmother into a nice person and transform the story – all stepmothers aren’t bad.
  6. For younger students, students can create their fairy tales using any elements of a fairy tale; magic, once upon a time, fairies, royalty, problem and solution.
  7. For high school students, they can create a drama script of the fairy tale.
  8. Readers theatre for all ages

Librarians must move away from colouring and bookmark making activities to more meaningful engagements to support students love for reading and building on their literacy skills of analysis and deeper comprehension.

Fairy Tale Resources

Here is another resource that can help the librarian. Fairy tale ideas for preschool. Read Write Think resources for fractured fairy tales and other resources for all ages. And, more resources for teaching fairy tales to high-school students. 

Are Classics Worth It?

By Book Reports, Book Talk, General No Comments

Are classic books worth the time and effort? Are they relevant to today’s time and place? Some adults: parents, teachers, and librarians swear by it and feel, if the students haven’t read any classics – they have wasted their time! However, with the changing times, some find that classic books must be shared with the young. It could be done by incorporating movies.

What makes a book a classic? Italo Calvino’s 14 Criteria for What Makes a Classic

Fundamentally, the work focuses on the style of writing or if it is a new entry in a particular genre. Secondly, it addresses fundamental topics in beauty stimulating visual delight or describes the complex nature of the socio-economic-political structure of a specific place and time. Thirdly, the book reflects values that transcend race, time, and location, providing profound wisdom and teachings of life.

A way to engage students in delving into classic literature might be to introduce students to movies based on these classics. Discussing value systems, character, the period the story was written in, settings, and/or author’s purpose. For example, using Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, you could describe the lifestyle of the girls that grew up in those times and compare and contrast them with the present times’ virtues, and freedom. Discuss the role of women and men who lived in those times and now, in the present. How much has changed and what has remained the same? How can we change and evolve? Why should we develop, grow and change? 

Another example could be Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. Why did she write this book, what prompted her to write? What are the experiments related to stem cells? Could these experiments have been influenced by the story or any other literature? How are the different characters in the story relatable? What conditions or situations in the story remind you of our present-day problems? How were outliers viewed in the previous century as compared to the present day? Here are some links to peruse and use for classic analysis with films. 

 PBS Movies with lesson plans

CommonLit – Lesson Plans

Youtube list that houses a variety of Classics

World Classics Movies list

Audio List of Classics

When students watch the movie and read excerpts from the book, impressions about the character, research on the topic, debates and writing reflection can become an interesting learning experience. Variations in the film and its narration can sometimes be taken off from the book narration, those experiences or topics or themes can be analyzed and discussed.

Reading Logs and DEAR

By Book Talk, General, Literacy, Readaloud, Reading and Writing, Reading Program, School Libraries No Comments

What is a Reading Log?

Are they useful? Do you think reading logs can help readers be accountable for what they are reading and how much they are reading?

Adding time and page numbers to the reading log – Will that accurately tell how much students are reading, why they are reading and what they have accomplished from their reading? Do we as adults follow it?

Reading logs are now being replaced by reading responses, that is nudging students to be analytical thinkers by carefully analyzing the structure and word choice of text while reading. An interesting article Goodbye Reading logs from Scholastic shows you how you can help build readers during your library classes with your students.

What is Dear?

DEAR – Drop everything and read is another opportunity provided for students to stop and read. Language class teachers often use this strategy to support learning in class. Librarians can also use DEAR for 10 minutes of their class and have students read with meaning, you may use graphic organizers to compare settings, characters or even the genre of the books or magazine that they are reading.

Other reading responses could be:

  1. Analyze the character in the book with someone you know or compare the character with your sibling?
  2. What is the author’s purpose, and how do you know that?
  3. If it’s a nonfiction book – compare and contrast.
  4. What are the facts and opinions in the passages, and explain them with pieces of evidence?
  5. What are the problems that you infer in the passage/story? What makes you say so?
  6. Identify the character’s point of view? Compare them with your views. (You can use emotions too)
  7. What current events come to your mind, while you are reading this passage?
  8. What connections can you make with history or modern-day technology?
  9. What inferences can you make about the passages you are reading?
  10. Identify some of the sensory words and create a poem with those words?
  11. Write five words or phrases that might summarize what you have read.
  12. Explain your reading with a metaphor or a meme.

Of course, teacher librarians will need to model the responses and demonstrate with an example so that students too can closely read with deeper comprehension.

Reading Aloud Stories Beyond Folklore 2

By Book Talk, General, Librarian's Role, School Libraries No Comments

Read aloud stories beyond folklore: there are plenty of stories beyond folklore being published in India. It is time to look at the originality and the creativity of these stories. I love the uniqueness of the recent stories that are being published, they have a profound purpose and goes beyond the folklore.  In today’s post, we will look at picture book stories about Urban India. These picture books can be used to talk about India: Where we are in place and time OR Who we are? OR Comparing city or village life or urban and rural life.

Fakruddin’s Fridge by Meenu Thomas and Tanvi Bhat is about little Fakruddin worrying about everything and asking endless questions. One day, when his fridge stops working, Fakru is frantic! How will he survive a hot summer without cold water? Ammi says: “Think of a way out yourself,”  A light-hearted story with cheerful watercolor illustrations which bring alive the ambiance of Fakru’s neighborhood in Bhopal city.

For Ju, old is gold. Her mother brings her hand-me-downs from the homes in which she works and Ju welcomes them like new friends. Ju graciously receives well-used textbooks and the treasures sometimes hidden among their pages: pressed flowers, poems, even a dead butterfly. One day Ju finds a sealed envelope in the maths book. It has a stamp but no address. Ju’s Story is part of ‘Different Tales,’ a project by Anveshi Research Centre  Paul Zacharia, sensitively shares this moving story, with Asma Menon’s strong, painterly illustrations suggesting a sense of empowerment. Slums are a part of every city life and cannot be ignored.

Princess Easy Pleasy by Natasha Sharma and Priya Kuriyan

Princess Easy Pleasy is all but easy to please. She drives the royal packer up the wall with her quirks that are as seasonal as her royal vacations. Where does it all stop? This rollicking picture book written by Natasha Sharma and illustrated by Priya Kuriyan guarantees many laughs and gives you a glimpse of another aspect of an urban lifestyle.

Papa’s Marathon by Nalini Sorensen and paired with Prashant Soni’s illustrations is a lighthearted story is about fitness goals that go awry and the unflagging faith of family. A cheerful story, about Gia’s Papa who has signed up for the marathon. And he buys clothes and fancy gadgets to match his new hobby. A story about Gia and her grandmother who become his biggest cheerleader. Another glimpse into some of the urban lifestyle’s in India.

Enjoy these stories and should you have others to share, please add them to the list. Most of these stories books can be found with Peacock Feathers.

Book Talk for Young Adults

By Book Talk, General No Comments

Young adults are hooked on to stories written by the west. There is absolutely nothing wrong with them, and many of them are written eloquently or have plots that appeal to the youth. Sometimes, these books are made into movies adding richness to their conversations. Let’s seize this opportunity to talk to young students about Indian fiction. Tap into their curiosity by showing them trailers about the Indian books or connecting Indian fiction to their lives. Indian stories have plots that Indian children can relate to. Many genres available describe teenage life, or politics or wildlife. Here are a few you can use to tap into their interests.

Talking of Muskaan by Himanjali Sankar. Muskaan is in hospital, fighting for her life. Three classmates “her former best friend Aaliya, the hottie Prateek, and the class topper Subhojoy” talk about Muskaan, and themselves. About school, home and the larger world, the school bus and the basketball court; about secrets that become burdens. And through their stories, twists and turns are revealed that drove Muskaan to try to kill herself. Funny and tragic by turns, Talking of Muskaan is a warm, moving novel about life and death and the young people caught in between. Click here to take a peek at this book.  
Jobless Clueless Reckless by Revathi Suresh. A coming of age story about a young girl coping with a mother who has cut herself off from society, a father who has no time with a family and that leaves Kavya with her brother. How will she cope with board exams looming close? A short trailer to nudge your students into trying out this book of hope, and life from a different lens.
Zombiestanby Mainak Dhar Cover illustration by Kunal Kundu. Watch the TrailerIt began with undead Taliban in Afghan villages”. In a world laid waste by this new terror, five unlikely companions come together in a devastated New Delhi” a seventeen-year-old boy dealing with the loss of his family, a US Navy SEAL trying to get back home, a middle-aged history professor, a young girl and her three-year-old brother. When they discover that the child may hold the key to ending the pestilence that threatens to destroy their world. An epic journey against terrible adversaries, both human and undead. Will they survive? Or will they too, like many before them, become undead citizens of Zombiestan?
Through the Killing Glass by Mainak Dhar and Cover illustration by Kunal Kundu
Sequel to Alice in Deadland.  Trailer of Alice in Deadland. After defeating the Red Guards and brokering peace with the colony of Biters, Alice believes that finally there will be peace in Wonderland, the human colony she has carved out of the Deadland.
But soon Alice and her band of soldiers find themselves at odds with the people of Wonderland. There are signs that the Central Committee in China are developing a weapon, more terrible and fearful than anything Alice has ever encountered before. Can Alice unite the people of Wonderland?
Praise for Alice in Deadland: ‘Dhar manages to pack in a lot of action on every page, so you don’t breathe easy.’ – Mint; ‘A must-read for those who love to read fast-paced novels with powerful characters.’