I believe it’s important when discussing Traditional Literature to be aware of the many, yet sometimes disagreeable, Categories of Traditional Literature. These include Fables, Myths, Legends, Religious Stories, Tall Tales, and Folktales. There are also subgenres of Folktales, which are Pourquoi (Why) Tales, Beast Tales, Cumulative Tales, Fairy Tales, Realistic Tales, Noodlehead/Jack Tales, and Trickster Tales. We may also discuss the Criteria for Evaluating and Selecting Traditional Literature in Cultural Considerations and Literary Considerations.
There are many opportunities for Reader Response when it comes to Traditional Literature. For our students, we can provide discussion, oral storytelling, have them write their own versions of the tales and support English Language Learners by directly relating literature to their own experiences. On page 137, we see a table of information on how to model storytelling for children that may be helpful in the classroom. Lastly, we can make several connections across the curriculum through social sciences; historical analysis, language arts; everyday vocabulary, art, advertising, and science; mathematical principles.
Paul Bunyan by Steven Kellogg, 1984, Grades: 1-2/Picturebook
This book is an American tall tale of Paul Bunyan, a hero, who crossed the United States with his great lumber crew. Along with his blue ox, Babe, and his crew, they endured many great adventures; building on land, making friends and enduring hardships that slowed their journey down from Maine to California. In the end, a celebration was made for a travel well-made. Now Paul and Babe reside in the Alaskan Mountains, continuing their adventures.
Tops & Bottoms by Janet Stevens, 1995, Grades: 3-4, Caldecott Honor Book
This story links with the traditional fable of “Tortoise and the Hare.” Bear owned a lot of land due to his hard worker and smart business bear father. Hare lost his land due to a bet he made with Bear’s father after, what is implied, the Tortoise and the Hare race. Hare, poor and wanting to fix the situation became business partners with Bear, using his land for harvesting crops. Each season, they would choose on tops or bottoms for crops, but Hare always cheated Bear from the wealth of the crop. In the end, Bear harvested his own crops and Hare bought back his land from the profit of his crops.
Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters by John Steptoe, 1987, Grades: 5-6/Picturebook, Caldecott Honor Book
Mufaro, a happy man, had two beautiful daughters; Nyasha, who was kind and considerate and Manyara, who was selfish and bad-tempered, but no one saw that except her own sister. One day, the great king invited “The Most Worthy and Beautiful Daughters in the Land,” for one to marry him. Both daughters set their own path in different ways, but what you discover is that “The Most Worthy and Beautiful in the Land” is the one who seeks not only happiness within herself, but for the good of others.