Fairy tales from all over the world hold great appeal for children of all ages and backgrounds. They are stories filled with magic, high adventure, humor, gripping suspense and lavish settings. They allow children to identify with the hero or heroine in the arduous battle against evil where the ‘good guy’ usually wins in the end.
Multicultural fairy tales share common themes and address such larger questions as these for young people to consider: What is truth and why should anyone fight for it? What role does unselfishness play in our relationships with others? Can courage take many different forms? Is it urgent that justice be served? Who among us wouldn’t be captivated by such magical tales where the good and the just often go on to live happily ever after!
I plan to use a selection of fairy tales from around the world as the basis of my curriculum unit in order to help my third-graders develop valuable insights into different cultures and their values. I also hope to lead them to the realization that there are identifiable universal themes of honesty, courage, etc., that all people share. These tales will, no doubt, be less familiar to American children and, in that sense, new and fresh, and so, hopefully, they will cause my students to make connections with some of the more familiar fairy tales with which they grew up.
Fairy tales are natural springboards for reading and writing development as well as for the study of other cultures. They will be an ideal source for examining more closely the key elements of a story, contrasting them with other stories, making character-studies (i.e., listing traits and idiosyncrasies), as well as for looking at point of view and narrative styles of writing.
Our focus in third grade is on literacy, helping third-graders develop and strengthen reading comprehension skills as well as write detailed and coherent responses to texts they’ve read. Great emphasis is also placed on being able to write multi-paragraph narratives. This unit will be interdisciplinary in scope (incorporating reading, writing listening, speaking, drama, art and social studies skills), and will, I believe, provide stories of high interest that will motivate even the most reluctant reader and writer. A good fairy tale leaves us spellbound, as if by magic. That, I think, is its real value.