Once upon a time, before Eastenders and Coronation Street, people used to actually sit down and tell each other stories by word of mouth. It’s hard to imagine, but it did happen. These stories, without a single identifiable author, involved tricksters, talking animals, or poor but beautiful girls who wanted to be princesses. They embodied emotional and spiritual truths and normally a strong moral message. These tales have been transmitted in the DNA of cultures across the globe; they have journeyed and been changed by the tongues of tellers over time. They remain an essential part of the oral tradition and, as time has gone on, have had to fend off urbanisation, large-scale migration, industrialisation and environmental change.
The Traditional Tales collection from Oxford Reading Tree is a quality resource for Reception and KS1, ideal for familiarising young children with enchanting and moralistic narratives from around the world.
You get 40 well written and brilliantly illustrated books and a teacher’s handbook packed full of advice and guidance. These resources stand by themselves as an enriching and wonderful starting point for sharing multicultural tales. However, what makes this collection even better is the free online goodies you can access to further develop children’s independent reading and storytelling skills.
Dovetailed to the phases of Letters and Sounds, the books have been expertly levelled to ensure they are decodable for children at each stage of the reading progress. They include guidelines for reading together, information about where each tale originated and advice on retelling the stories; tips that are useful for parents and teachers alike.
The story map at the end of each tale is a nice touch as it illustrates key scenes and episodes that children can use to retell the story in their own words. When doing this, you get a real sense of how much children have absorbed and what they can remember. The picture prompts also give you an insight into how some children can adapt a tale and make it their own.
Inside the teacher’s handbook you will find an activity sheet to match each storybook, which has been designed to support children’s comprehension and writing. There are puppets to be cut out and coloured; tasks that focus on feelings, sequencing and drawing; and descriptive writing activities. Brief notes for follow-up ideas, home and further reading recommendations also come in handy.
The online extras really add value to the printed resources. For a start you can access videos featuring professional storytellers, which are just the job for helping children to focus on actions, facial expressions, style and intonation. There are 10 videos to enjoy, but the greedy part of me wanted all 40 stories to choose from, such was the rich and imaginative language on offer. I suppose you could go the extra mile and make your own videos with the children’s help.
There are ebooks available too that make whole-class teaching of a text so much more manageable and interactive. There’s an ebook for each stage of the ORT scheme, although more would have been a wish come true. You can zoom in and out, turn the audio on and off and play a couple of activities per ebook. As this is a collection of world stories, I would like to have seen an interactive world map zooming in and out from Britain to the country in question. Still, you could do this yourself using Google Maps.
Pooling the talents of a number of authors and illustrators, this treasure trove of books contains a plethora of ideas for bringing traditional tales alive and so will act as a wonderful springboard for developing children’s own storytelling and writing from an early age.