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Children are often told short stories by their elders, and the stories have an indelible effect on their lives. The values that the elders wish to pass on to the children are often the focus of the short stories. The majority of the stories feature animals and people, and there is usually a moral lesson that the children will learn at the end. For the purposes of this article, a grandfather aged 72 and a mother aged 45 were asked about some of the short stories they were taught as children and what they remembered from the stories. Indeed, they learned important lessons from the interviews that have influenced their values to this day. The grandfather remembers a short story about a mother, child and beast. The mother could go out to fetch water and firewood while the child could lock itself in the house. At most times, the mother could come past dusk, and had devised a method where she could sing so that the child could open the door. The beast learned about this pattern and started salivating about feasting on the child. At one time the beast tried to sing to the child, but it could not open since the voice was not its mother’s. The grandfather recalls that from this story which was told to him by his mother learned the moral of trust. According to Sainbury, trust is an important lesson for children to be taught so that they can carry the value throughout their lives (97). During the interview, the grandfather noted that while growing up, he learned to trust his mother through the short story he had been told.
At the same, the grandfather also narrated story about a boy and unripe bananas. There one time lived a family who planted bananas in their farm. Once the bananas were mature, the mother would collect them so that they could ripe for the family to eat. She often warned her young son not to eat the unripe bananas as this would result to stomach pain. However, at one time the boy sneaked to where the bananas were stored, and ate some of them, and this resulted to a severe stomach ache. During the interview, the grandfather said that the moral he learned from the story was about obedience and respect. Miskec and Wannamker, note that short stories can be used to educate children about different morals such as obedience (16). In general, children short stories were used by their elders to educate them about different morals such as obedience.
In the interview with the mother, a story regarding a shepherd boy, who watched sheep in a particular village, was narrated. He brought out the people in the village three to four times, each time yelling out, “Wolf! Wolf,” and when the people came out the, he laughed at them for their anxiety. Nonetheless, the wolf eventually came, and the shepherd boy called for his neighbors in agony. But his cries fell on deaf ears (DeVries et al 184). The mother pointed out that children’s literature during their time had to do with hypothetical social dilemmas. However, most stories often had moral lessons as it is the case today. For instance, the moral that the grandfather learned from the story of the boy who cried wolf is that one should not trick people because then they will not believe him when you tell the truth. According to Bennet and Hague, children can learn about the value of always telling the truth through short stories (84). In essence, the moral that the grandfather learned from this story can be passed to the current children generation.
The mother recounted a story about a big bull and a gnat. The gnat buzzes for some time and lands on the horn of the bull. After some time the gnat decides to leave and thanks to the bull for rendering its horn. But the bull replied with pride stating that it did not even know the gnat was there for it was still the same. The mother learned that most men are of more consequence in their own eyes than in the view of their neighbors. In the story, the gnat seems worried about bothering other creatures. What he does not acknowledge is that it is so small that he bothered no one. In essence, the moral that children gain from this story is that no matter how small they believe to be, they can still make a chance in the environment. In their book, Kilpatrick et al recognize that short stories can be used to build the moral and character of a child.
Conclusively, the interviews provided insightful questions about the stories that were told in previous generation. One of the interesting aspects from the stories is that even though they were told from different generation, the morals passed to the children were similar. The morals learned through the short stories told to the grandfather, and the mother includes trust, obedience, respect, and telling the truth. In the contemporary world, children can also be told the short stories so that they can also learn morals which will be passed to the next generation.
Bennett, William J., and Michael Hague. Children's book of virtues. Simon and Schuster, 1995.
DeVries, Rheta, and Betty Zan. Moral classrooms, moral children: Creating a constructivist atmosphere in early education. Vol. 47. Teachers College Press, 2012.
Kilpatrick, William, Gregory Wolfe, and Suzanne M. Wolfe. Books that build character: A guide to teaching your child moral values through stories. Simon and Schuster, 1994.
Miskec, Jennifer, and Annette Wannamaker, eds. The Early Reader in Children’s Literature and Culture: Theorizing Books for Beginning Readers. Routledge, 2015.
Sainsbury, Lisa. Ethics in British children's literature: unexamined life. A&C Black, 2013.
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