Monday, October 1, 2018

The Grandma Who Used Her Wits!

If I were to author a dictionary, my entry for "grandmother" would avoid the term "academics" like the plague. I'd stick to describing that lady solely as a treasured source of carefree joy and comfort - a complete disconnect from classroom rigor. "Grandma" = "fun" and nothing more than that!

But sometimes traditional book learnin' encroaches on playtime despite our best efforts. Grandmas have an innate knack for introducing "the fun of learning" with hardly an effort or barely a penny expended! I had such an opportunity recently, and I'm still basking in the afterglow!

Let me explain!

Granddaughter Brielle's eighth birthday occurred on the second day of third grade this year. Her wise and lovely teacher eschewed the celebratory tradition of cupcakes and candy in favor of an appealing option: invite a special person in your life to come read to the classroom! My participation was requested and I was "in" with enthusiasm!

But what to read to those eager little learners? What type of story would entertain, hold interest, and, perhaps, even venture to teach a thing or two? I'm personally not a fan of pop culture characters. Too slick, too shallow, too commercially driven. Sorry, Elsa and Anna! Today I'm looking elsewhere for a poignant tale!

Childhood nostalgia for me is best represented in a 12 volume set of My Book House books. Anyone else out there familiar with this treasure of the 50s? Our well worn set belongs to me now, and I've often reached for its pages, seeking folk and fairy tales for fireside grandma camp reading. The age of my rapt audience was always considered because the rich heritage of such stories, told generation to generation in every country of the world, does not always respect the absence of triumphing evil, racism, or frightening characters who pose danger to children. When selected with age-level care, folk and fairy tales add a spirit of adventure to a child's life: kings, giants, princesses, trolls, and talking animals entertain, cultural history is acknowledged, and, most commonly, lessons are taught.

I chose a Chinese folk tale, The Girl Who Used Her Wits, for my presentation. This charming telling challenges two young wives to bring home "fire wrapped in a paper" and "wind in a paper" in exchange for a favor granted by their mother-in-law. Entertaining? Yes! I used my repertoire of story voices: crotchety, whimpering, and wise! A glimpse into family life described the culture of multi-generational living, while the wits of an intervening character redeemed the folly of reckless promise making. Success! Every box checked!

I didn't just leave it there, though. No way. Not this grandma! At story's conclusion, Brielle handed out paper fans to her classmates. Those, of course, were "wind in a paper" - not only a meaningful favor to memorialize the folk tale, but a much appreciated classroom cooler in the late August humidity we were experiencing!

But the best part? Brielle's report to me that my visit earned the day's "best moment" by student acclamation!

So....invited to go in and read, grandma? Do it! They'll love you!

My Book House vintage volumes can be found on ebay
Paper fans were purchased at Party City
See You Tube for a telling of The Girl Who Used Her Wits as well as the following:

Here's a list of other folk and fairy tales that are suitable for young children, checking all the boxes for entertainment, cultural learning, and lessons taught:

The Little Snow Maiden (Russian)
The Boy Hero of Harlem (Dutch)
The Cap That Mother Made (Swedish)
The Shoemaker and the Elves (German)


  1. What a wonderful honor to be chosen to read at your granddaughter's 8th birthday celebration in school. She has a clever teacher. I never heard of these books but they sound so interesting that I will look them up to see if I can find them on a used book site. My children enjoyed reading Aesop's Fables when they were children and I'm sure these books fables would have been equally as interesting. I can understand the "wind in paper" but what was the "fire wrapped paper"? Was that a firecracker?

    1. The "fire wrapped in paper" was a Chinese lantern!
      And, the "My Book House" set is a compilation of folk and fairy tales as well as poetry. The volumes progress with age, making it easy to find suitable material.
      Thanks, Pat, for your nice comment!

  2. Happy belated birthday to Brielle. What a wonderful idea to invite grandparents to read to the class, and getting a "best moment" comment was even better.

  3. You continue to amaze me! Of course you were chosen you are giving your grandchildren amazing memories and now some memories for classmates too. Love it!

  4. How fun to be invited to read at your grandbaby's school. So fun! Thanks for sharing with #BloggingGrandmothersLinkParty

  5. What a lovely story - and a lovely solution for finding the right story to read - it has always been one of my favorites.