Thanks to my grade-level colleagues, I have a new collection of Aesop Fables that changed the way I teach traditional tales. You see, this book isn’t a typical collection of Aesop’s Fables. The text begins with a story about Aesop – how he was enslaved, how his family was treated, and he created these stories to survive. Now my kids understand that Aesop used stories to avoid the cruelties that the enslaved faced and communicate with his friends and families without his owners understanding his true meaning. The kids see his brilliance, his creativity, and as they read his stories, they cheer for Aesop.
The most significant change in class happens when these second graders read Aesop’s traditional tales with their reading partners. They are eager to stop and chat, “So, what do you think Aesop is teaching? Why do you think he told this story? What is his hidden message?” Their questioning is deeper because Aesop is a person who uses his wisdom to fight for freedom, and they want to understand.
When I told my students I was writing a post about this book, I asked them, “What do you think Aesop has taught you?” Here is what they had to say:
“Don’t be greedy, and don’t be in charge of other people.”
“This book helps us understand more about racism.”
“Never say mean stuff.”
“When you don’t have power, you have to talk in code. You have to keep fighting.”
“Be kind all the time.”
Thank you, Ian Lender and Pamela Zagarenski. Your book has helped make me a better teacher.
Happy Reading, Everyone!