When I was a kid I had very involved parents and grandparents. Reading was a important part of our time together. And reading then involved 'classics' like Dr. Seuss, Little Golden Book stories, and fairy tales. As time goes by parents seem much more concerned about electronics and technology. In my youth we had four channels on our antenna tv. There were no dvds, computers, or even vcrs. We played and used our imaginations (more on that in a future post) and we read books and told stories. Technology is here to stay and it does have a place in the world of our kids, but sadly those true classics--fairy tales--have taken a back seat.
Yes, Disney has made sure that certain fairy tales are kept alive, but many others have fallen through the cracks. Today we started our weeklong unit on fairy tales and nursery rhymes. I love telling and retelling the stories of The Three Little Pigs, The Three Bears, The Three Billy Goats Gruff, Red Riding Hood, Jack and the Beanstalk, and all those other gems using various books, flannel board props, puppets and, masks. All of these stories require the storyteller to use voices for the characters (children are just delighted by this!) and have repetitive parts where the children can join in or retell. These stories will be lost without being told in the oral tradition that has kept them alive for centuries.
Nursery rhymes used to create a foundation for reading skills like phrasing, rhyming, and alliteration. Sadly, many of the children I work with are not able to recite more than a couple of nursery rhymes upon entering preschool. I also tend to neglect them, which is why I include them in our fairy tale theme. And we make sure to repeat them often and bring them to life with activities that they can move to or create with.
Today we did a simple, spur of the moment, activity with Jack Be Nimble. Each child took turns jumping over a candlestick (toilet paper roll with a sliver of construction paper flame) as we recited the rhyme with their name inserted. We stacked a small block or two under the candlestick to make it a bit more challenging as we went along. It was interesting to see the various techniques used to jump nimbly over that candlestick. Some took a running start. Some stood near the candlestick and jumped (sometimes landing with one foot on either side of the candle). The rest of us applauded each attempt while we waited our turns.
We also provided puppets and flannel board pieces so that the kids could retell stories. We had lots of bear voices and naughty little Goldilocks pranks going on during free play.
And I always enjoy the kids' faces when they realize that The Little Red Hen is not going to share her bread with her lazy friends. That is so unfair in the eyes of a four year old!
So parents, grandparents, and other folks here who love children, please share those stories with your kids. Make it fun. Use the voices. Make it exciting, scary, funny, as appropriate. And tell them again and again! (PS It's okay and wonderful if the stories are different from time to time--that's how it has been generation to generation.)