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This is the most defining genre of children’s literature and the most popular. Many identify children’s literature as just folk and fairy tales. Today, we understand that children’s literature is a burgeoning art form with newer genres being discovered continuously.

Folk and fairy tales play an important role in the reading diet of children. These stories reveal to children their universal and cultural identity in explicit ways. Furthermore, they are some of the world’s oldest stories that every generation has read or heard. For this reason, these stories are often described as legacy literature.


These tales are one of the first forays children have into understanding the world as multicultural. The earlier children understand this, the better. Introducing children to stories that are “windows” (Bishop, 1990) to multiculturalism begins their journey into understanding themselves as part of humanity.


Folktales are traditional tales about worlds gone by. As children read these stories, they gain evolutionary perspectives of their own identities, their families and of others. These stories are often either literary or fairy tales. Literary folktales are formulaic, employing traditional narrative patterns about the goals, aspirations and challenges of characters, families or communities. These tales tend to begin, develop and end in formulaic ways and often demonstrate the enormity of life in the simplicity of everyday matters.


For bilingual children, who are learning English as a second language, folktales are ideal stories particularly because of their formulaic organization and clear themes. What is even more ideal about these stories, in particular retellings, is that bilingual children meet characters who look just like them interacting in English, the language they are learning.

Fairy tales, on the other hand, are magical. They are unbelievable stories where magic plays a role.


They ignite the imagination of children by offering the view that happenstance aids the good and kind or the strong and courageous. Fairy tales expand children’s understanding of life as both physical and supernatural.

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