With the holidays behind us and the new year just beginning, kids typically find it hard to get back into the routine of school. However, with half the school year already behind us and high-stakes testing coming up in the spring, it’s important for kids to solidify their skills and build confidence in their reading proficiency.
One way to engage kids and regain their momentum after the holidays is to leverage supplemental reading assignments with engaging stories that will appeal to their natural curiosity. When a story flows with words that children can comprehend, followed by a simple plot structure that not only stimulates their imagination but also reinforces their sense of the world, kids discover that they can entertain themselves by reading for pleasure. When that happens, they are no longer practicing the mechanics of reading, instead they become transformed by their reading experience.
It takes extra work to help nurture emerging readers who may be struggling with phonemic awareness or new vocabulary words. We wanted to provide an opportunity to make supplemental reading more enjoyable and more meaningful for kids, so we created Story Cove to help kids explore stories in different ways.
Story Cove includes 22 folktales from the world’s great oral traditions. Each story is designed to be used in multiple ways:
8x8 picture books, so they’re easy for young kids to hold
Fully animated online versions
Read to me narration with automated page turns and highlighted text phrases
Read along narration that allows kids to control the pace and turn the pages
Accompanied with lesson plans that correlate with the Common Core Standards for Kindergarten to 2nd grade, perfect to prepare for testing
In addition, the stories are gathered from different regions around the world. Kids will get to learn about new cultures from around the world including Africa, Latin America, Europe, Asia and Australia.
My personal favorites are the Anansi stories from West Africa. I recently interviewed Bobby Norfolk, the award-winning author of the Anansi retellings. Bobby actually visited West Africa to experience these stories in-person! The Anansi tales had quite an impact on him. During his tour in Cairo, Egypt, he asked the facilitator about Anansi’s role in the culture. She laughed and explained that everyday at the same time, everyone would stop what they were doing and come together for “Anansi Time.”
Story Cove also provides practical opportunities to demonstrate making real life decisions. Folktales, in general, model character traits and values, just one of the reasons this genre is so valuable to share with young children. To illustrate how character traits are used in folktales to model making wise decisions, one particular Anansi story comes to mind, Anansi Goes to Lunch. Anansi becomes greedy when multiple friends ask him to lunch. He wants Hippo’s pork roast, Elephant’s hamburgers, and Zebra’s pizza. He ties three strings around his waist and asks his friends to tug the string when the food is ready. Unfortunately for Anansi, all three strings tighten at once and cinch Anansi’s waist. When all three strings break, Anansi gets no lunch and realizes that it’s not such a good idea to be greedy. This timeless folktale is a classic example of how thoughtful decisions lead to positive consequences and poor decisions lead to much less desirable outcomes.
The combination of 8x8 picture books and online resources offers a unique opportunity for emerging readers to become more proficient readers.
Teachers and parents throughout the US, UK, Australia, Canada, and Asia have effectively used these multicultural folktales to actively engage students and help them experience the joy of reading as they explore these timeless tales.
Bobby Norfolk felt so strongly about the character values that folktales offered to young readers, that he and his wife, Sherry wrote Moral of the Story.
The core values they highlight in this unique resource book are reinforced by the timeless lessons included in the Story Cove collection. In our interview, Bobby talked about why he enjoys storytelling and why it’s important enough to make a career out of it. His final thoughts still resonate with me, “To me, storytelling not only changes children’s minds, it changes their hearts.”