African and African American stories have been passed on from generation to generation to instill various lessons of value, tradition, and morality.
Folktales were told to children to remind them of their culture, beliefs, history, practices, and customs; and were an integral part of the socialization of a child.
Though some parents and grandparents in recent times may not keep up with storytelling traditions like they used to; these stories are not lost.
Research has shown that children build their language skills and gain knowledge about the world when they read or are read to from a young age.
Giving children the opportunity to read books on other cultures and traditions also helps to increase their understanding of their own culture and that of others. This strengthens their relationship with others because they learn to appreciate the differences among individuals in terms of beliefs and practices.
More so, introducing these African and African American folktales to young readers will not only help them benefit from the aforementioned points, but also fill them with good morals and inspiration.
On the other hand, these books transcend age and can be enjoyed by readers, both young and old.
Revisiting some of the fondest childhood stories, here are five African and African-American children’s Folktales you need to know.
Finding the Green Stone – Alice Walker
Ages: 7 – 9
Finding the Green Stone is a moral story about a boy named Johnny who lives in a town where everyone has a glowing green stone. He is agitated when he loses his stone due to his bad behavior. The community comes together to help him, but to find the glowing stone once again, Johnny first needs to find the love in his heart.
In the tale, the young boy learns to discover his inner strength and wisdom. He also understands why he should let go of negative feelings.
The People Could Fly: American Black Folktales – Virginia Hamilton
Ages: 10 +
The book is a collection of 24 stories that narrate the traditions of the American black culture. It is a fantasy chronicle of Africans who had the ability to fly but lost the ability when they came to the United States as slaves. One slave reclaims the magic power and leads them to freedom in the end.
In this book, children are ushered into the lives of black slaves who after having so much hope and determination earn their freedom.
Tales of Uncle Remus: The Adventures of Brer Rabbit – Julius Lester
Ages: 8 -12
Brer Rabbit the trickster, is almost always up to no good in these tales, although by the end of the book, he has learned a valuable lesson. The book is filled with humor, wit, and creativity. The characters in the book are relatable and easy to follow and capture the minds of young readers.
In this book, children are able to understand valuable life lessons in morality, how to relate with others, the importance of patience, etc.
Nelson Mandela’s Favorite African Folktales – Nelson Mandela
Ages: 8 -11
This is a collection of stories by Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s famed freedom fighter and ex-President. There are 22 stories in all, which originate from South Africa, as well as some other countries in sub-Saharan Africa.
The anecdotes are a compilation of original African stories aimed at giving readers a dive into the gritty essence of Africa in the portrayal of humanity, beasts, and the mystical.
Anansi and the Golden Pot – Taiye Selasi
Ages: 3 – 7
Anansi is a popular character in African stories. He is very clever and can be quite the trickster. In this tale, Anansi the spider meets Anansi the boy. Together, they discover a magical pot that can be filled with anything they want.
The story sends a strong message about sharing and the dangers of greed. Young readers will also learn the importance of being kind.