October 8, 2007
The Importance of Folklore to School Libraries
It has recently been brought to my attention that folklore is in danger of being eliminated from public school libraries in Hawaii. I am writing to express my strong objection to this and to provide a rationale for the importance of folklore in the education and cultural enrichment of children.
Folktales nourish the mind and enliven the soul. The folklore section of the library consists of traditional stories which have been written down from orally transmitted sources and widely disseminated so they can be shared by people of all nationalities and races. In ancient and pre-literate cultures, stories provided an important means for preserving and perpetuating the myths, rituals, history, and other information considered to be of value. For this reason, the reading of folklore can provide a means for gaining insight and understanding of a culture from the “inside out.” For example in the Chinese version of Cinderella, Yeh Shen is fitted with a brocaded slipper, not a glass one. Through folklore, children are exposed to ways of living which may be very different from their own and develop an appreciation for the unique aspects of culture which identify groups of people around the world.
While folktales allow us a window into different cultures, more importantly, folktales provide an opportunity for children to realize that in spite of outward differences, the basic needs of people are the same. Throughout the world, people share a common need for love, hope, and security and possess feelings of happiness, anger, pride, and loneliness. These basic needs and the ways humans of all cultures deal with them are reflected in folktales. In our diverse and multicultural world, there is an increasing need for people to overcome their differences and be able to live and work together in harmony. An important function of folklore is in helping people to...