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Books and activities for summer reading and learning from Reading Rockets

Start With a Book: Books and activities for summer reading and summer learning

We Are Storytellers: Exploring Multicultural Folktales, Fairy Tales, and Myths

We are all storytellers! Open up our treasure chest of folktales, fairy tales, tall tales, and myths, both traditional and new.

road runner woodcut

Welcome to Storytellers!

Stories are what make the world go ‘round. The stories we love best live in us forever.

Delve into the land of stories by uncovering a treasured family story by interviewing a loved one and writing that story, participating in a Tall Tale Character Parade, bringing with you as much outlandishness and fun as possible, writing a “Pourquoi Tale” and making a mask of the myth’s main character to bring it to life, making action figure cards for your favorite trickster, and creating a colorful map based on a beloved favorite fairy tale, complete with a compass rose and legend.

We Are Storytellers gives kids a chance to learn more about the traditions of oral and written storytelling, the cultural influences around genres of stories, and the thrill of creating a never-before-told story.

We Are Storytellers combines hands-on activities with great picture books — books such as How the Raven Stole the Sun and Martina the Beautiful Cockroach — inspiring kids to read and learn about stories from diverse backgrounds and cultures.

Get your free Storytellers guide

Get more details about each section of Storytellers by clicking on these links:

Video: children’s authors and illustrators

See more videos about stories and storytellers by clicking on these links:

Folktales and family stories

Folktales are the people's stories, passed down from generation to generation by word of mouth. The folktale tradition of telling stories out loud remains strong throughout the world. Stories are being heard, retold, remembered, rediscovered.

Through shared reading, writing, storytelling, and other creative activities, let's explore the stories of our elders that have been told and re-told in your family for generations. We'll also give kids a chance to write Who I Am poems that express how they are connected to their families, culture, and community. The guide includes recommended books, instructions and a supply list for each activity, and suggestions for sharing children's writing and storytelling.

Folktales tell us who we are

In this video clip, children's author Carmen Agra Deedy (Martina the Beautiful Cockroach) talks about why folktales matter so deeply. "They're meant to teach what that culture believes. And what's beautiful about them is that the really wonderful ones always have risen to the top and then travel the world."

Tall tales

Tall tales are stories may sound true ... but they sure do feature lots of exaggeration and action that is a bit hard to believe! Popular tall tale characters from American folklore include John Henry, Pecos Bill, Johnny Appleseed, Paul Bunyan, and Sally Ann Thunder Ann Whirlwind Crockett.

Through shared reading, writing, storytelling, and other creative activities, kids explore the humor and hyperbole in tall tales by writing an original tall tale about someone in their own family. The guide includes recommended books, instructions and a supply list for each activity, and suggestions for sharing children's writing and storytelling.

Tall tale heroes

Children's book illustrator Jerry Pinkney (Uncle Remus: The Complete Tales) grew up hearing both classic fairy tales and American folktales. He is particularly drawn to the tall tale heroes in African American storytelling, with characters like John Henry.

Myths, legends, and pourquoi tales

Myths are stories told aloud that were passed down from generation to generation for thousands of year, to help ancient people make sense of the natural world. Although many myths feature gods and goddesses, many cultures also have nature myths called pourquoi tales that explain how things in nature came to be. Legends are traditional stories about a real place and time in the past. The characters often take on fictional qualities as the story is told a retold.

Through shared reading, writing, and creative activities, kids will write, illustrate, and share their own original nature myth (and try some mask-making). We'll also give kids an opportunity to write a letter to local heroes in their own community who they want to honor and thank. The guide includes recommended books, instructions and a supply list for each activity, and suggestions for sharing children's writing and storytelling.

The strength of everyday people

Children's author and historian Tonya Bolden (Facing Frederick: The Life of Frederick Douglass, a Monumental American Man) reflects on reading about legends like Mary McLeod Bethune and realizing that, "... maybe I have some legends in my family. They didn’t make it into the history books." Her grandfather was a laborer who worked hard for 50 cents a day. "And it takes a kind of genius to do the same with less or maybe to do more with less. So it made me appreciate the genius of the folk."

Trickster tales

Anansi the Spider, Raven, Coyote, and Brer Rabbit — do you know these famous tricksters? Trickster tales are funny, with animals playing pranks on other animals, and satisfying endings where the tables are turned on the trickster! Different cultures use trickster tales to teach lessons about how to behave and treat other people.

Through shared reading, writing, and creative activities, kids will get to know tricksters from around the world and bring their favorite trickster characters to life through original poems, mask-making, and illustrated trickster action cards. The guide includes recommended books, instructions and a supply list for each activity, and suggestions for sharing children's writing and storytelling.

Yuyi Morales: Just a Minute: A Trickster Tale and Counting Book

In celebration of Global Read Aloud 2019, children's author and illustrator Yuyi Morales (Dreamers) reads her trickster tale (and counting book), Just a Minute, featuring Señor Calavera and Grandma Beetle.

Fairy tales

"Once upon a time ... " Most kids are very familiar with fairy tales — make-believe stories with magical elements like spells, princes and princesses, dragons, trolls, fairy godmothers, talking animals, and witches.

Through shared reading, writing, and creative activities, kids will learn about fairy tales from around the world and create a fairy tale map, a fairy tale timeline, and a fairy tale catalog full of magical items. The guide includes recommended books, instructions and a supply list for each activity, and suggestions for sharing children's writing and storytelling.

Marilyn Singer: Mirror, Mirror

Children's poet Marilyn Singer (Mirror, Mirror) reads three fairy tale poems crafted in an original poetic form — the reverso — that reads one way forward and another backward.

Printables: Books, activities, and name tags

More on folktales, fairy tales and myths

We've gathered up a great collection of books, activities, and kid-friendly podcasts, apps, and websites for learning all about folktales, fairy tales and myths. Browse here >


Children’s authors: multicultural folktales

Children’s authors: oral storytelling

Children’s authors: family stories