Let our folklore live for ever after

2011-02-25 11:10

Decades ago, Reader’s Digest used to publish collections of fairy tales in addition to the periodicals that contained jokes and inspirational life stories. My father used to subscribe religiously to the periodicals, and frequently ordered the record packs (what youngsters now call “vinyl”) and the collections of children’s stories. I think they are all still lurking in a box somewhere in storage.

I have always loved stories. I used to sit in my bedroom, submerged in stories like Gulliver’s Travels, imagining what it must be like to live those fairy-tale lives.

I also took a liking to the works of the mysterious Dr Seuss – the pseudonym of American writer Theodor Seuss Geisel – and his fascinating tales, such as Green Eggs and Ham and The Cat In The Hat, many of which were written in the 1950s and 60s.

Rhythmic and poetic with powerful messages, these stories, in a way, equip children with the tools to engage with the world.

Their themes are universal and apply across generations because they are about human nature and about engaging with people around you.

When I discovered that the Dr Seuss stories were being reissued, I started collecting them for my son, who delights in stories such as Oh, the Places You’ll Go!, Sleep Book, One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish, Horton Hears a Who! and If I Ran the Circus.

I also have the Dr Seuss app on my iPhone, which has narration and flips pages automatically. We have reached the point where, with some of the stories, we recite them as opposed to reading them.

I have also collected other great parables for him, which we read every night.

He is also registered with the Disney Book Club and receives a package every two months or so. Part of the joy of bedtime is that he gets to choose which?book he wants for the night.

For many, children’s writing seems the easiest but, in reality, it is the opposite.

To be able to write in such a way as to inspire, engage, entertain and educate a child is not child’s play. Yet, for generations, children have sat at the feet of grandfathers and grandmothers across this continent, and learned about themselves, their culture, their history and their lives through stories.

Stories that are creative and effective in ensuring that children learn the important lessons and are made aware of the challenges that life may bring.

Wander through any bookshop and you’ll realise that these stories are no longer there. You can find books on Cinderella, Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, Pinocchio and The Boy Who Cried Wolf, but nothing on Anansi The Spider.

I recently discovered the Southern African Folklore Society. Why aren’t we supporting this society and finding out what it is doing to document our stories?
» Baffoe is the editor of Destiny Man. This is his final column.

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