Check out Kids Art Submissions! Stories to Grow by 2020 Kids Art Contest!

Thank you to all our wonderful Kids Art Submissions. As we work through the many wonderful pieces of art to determine which ones we will be using in some of our stories, you may view the submissions HERE

We view all the Kids Art submissions as winners! Check back often and view the stories below to see which Kids Art images have been chosen. Thank you from Stories to Grow by!

Stories to Grow by Announces Kids Art Contest! Calling all Artists!

Cinderella Story

Thanks to Ava

Stories to Grow by is looking to feature Kids Art in our Classic Fairy Tale Bedtime stories! We are looking for children ages 6-14 to submit original artwork for our Classic Stories. We are looking for art work which shows a scene from the story. The winning drawings (5-10 depending on story length) will be featured in the story, published on our award-winning website: which received over 3 Million Visitors last year! 

We are seeking illustrations for the following stories located HERE

Cinderella, Snow White, Beauty and the Beast, Pinocchio, Sword in the Stone, Ugly Duckling, Robin Hood, Sleeping Beauty, Princess and the Frog, Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Bambi. 

We are asking for submissions by March 1, 2020.    

Please email submissions or questions to: [email protected] Include child’s first name only, age, state and country. JPEG or PNG files please. Thank you!

February Unit Lesson Plan Part 1: The Theme of Love & Appreciation

February: the month of LOVE and surely there are plenty of stories which cover the “traditional” love story. Our worldly stories, however, teach us so much more about love than just that.  This month we will explore six love stories, each from a different country and each with their own unique message about what it means to love and be loved in return. This week’s story is about appreciation: appreciation for what we have that money can’t buy: the true love of another.



The story of a conceited princess of England who thought that no man was worthy of her hand. The prince of Denmark, however, is determined to change her mind. He sends many a gift, each one she destroys, literally, along with his pride, but, alas, he is determined to change her proud ways. He decides to go to the kingdom in disguise, tricks her into marriage and forces her to live a life of the common woman. Through a series of unfortunate events, she learns an important lesson about herself and what it means to truly love another through appreciation.

A story from Denmark, this European Folk Tale is a wonderful tale of appreciation of the common gifts in life that wealth cannot buy, most importantly of these, love. A common story thread, a member of royalty is forced to live a life of a commoner and learns a great deal about life and love in the process. Learning to appreciate life’s greatest gifts…values we want to instill in our students and a reminder for all of us of what is most important.

Teaching Greyfoot

This story meets Common Core Standards for 2nd -4th grade and is a wonderful addition to a February Unit surrounding the Theme of Love and to teach the literary skills of Characterization, Sequence of Events, and Cause & Effect. This story also lends well to Compare/Contrast stories with a similar plot line and similar/different outcomes. We offer a wonderful Decision Map  to support teaching Characterization which will help students recognize the value of the lesson in this story surrounding love and appreciation. Extend your standard learning of the literary skills with a story that your students will sure to ponder and love. Happy LOVE Storytelling!

The Velveteen Rabbit Lesson Plan ~ Valentine’s Day

The Velveteen Rabbit Short Story for Kids

The Velveteen Rabbit Lesson Plan ~ February Theme of Love 

Velveteen Rabbit Lesson Plan Ideas for Valentine's Day: Creative Writing Tasks  

The Velveteen Rabbit is a beautiful, classic tale of a child's love for his stuffed animal. A motif, as also seen in the Disney movie "Toy Story", of the old toy thrown aside as new, shiny, toys with buttons and lights are received. The stuffed bunny, Velveteen Rabbit, and the Skin Horse wonder about their life as discarded toys.  But Skin Horse assures Velveteen Rabbit, "When soft toys are loved enough, we can become real." 

This story is a favorite childhood classic and our early reader version can be easily used in the classroom for grades K-3rd. It is perfect for Valentine's Day  with the theme of love which is easily accessible to all children. The love for their favorite stuffed toy.  In Kindergarten and 1st grade, the lesson could include am oral reading of the story and the children drawing a picture of their favorite stuffed animal coming to life. Meet standards by having students write a descriptive sentence "I love my ____ because_____." For 2nd and 3rd grade, it can be read for Independent Reading or Read Aloud and then include a writing task: Write a paragraph describing your own beloved stuffed animal. Extend the learning by having students be creative and write a short story about how their stuffed animal became real. Or a persuasive story about why their stuffed animal deserves to become real. Happy Valentine's Day and Happy Storytelling! 

Folktales of Cooperation

Back to School: Folktales of Cooperation For Your K-3 Class

Back to School: Folktales of Cooperation For Your K-3 Class

(Also applicable to Preschool.)

Are you looking for a fun and effective way of promoting the spirit of cooperation in your K through 3 classrooms? Elaine Lindy shares three favorite folktales of cooperation that will get kids thinking and talking about the importance of sharing and working together! After you use the tales in the classroom, why not send them home so the discussion about cooperation can continue? Included: Lindy shares follow-up activities and tips.

Are you looking for a fun and effective way of promoting the spirit of cooperation in your K through 3 classrooms? Peek into a smoothly running classroom, and you're bound to see the forces of cooperating, listening, and sharing in action.

Telling fairytales and folktales is an excellent way of capturing the attention of children. You can communicate the "look and feel" of cooperation by delivering pearls of wisdom to your students through the genre they love best.

The delightful folktales summarized below demonstrate the power of cooperative action. These stories have been tested and proven as hand-clapping favorites before groups of young listeners. Suggestions for related activities follow each summary.





"White Wing's Escape" is from The Panchatantra, translated by Arthur W. Ryder, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1956, pages 214 to 217.

The story begins when a hunter sets a giant snare in a spreading banyan tree and scatters grain to catch the attention of birds. White Wing, a dove king, and his flock notice the rice grains from high in the sky. They swoop downward and -- alas! -- are soon trapped in the hunter's net. As the hunter gleefully approaches the birds with his club, they realize their desperate plight. White Wing says to the doves, "We must not panic, my friends. There is a way to escape from this terrible fate, but we must all agree to work together. The net is too large and too heavy for any one of us to lift. But if we all fly upward at the same time, I'm sure we can lift the snare and carry it away." The other doves quickly agree. When White Wing gives his signal, the birds all fly upward at the same moment. They lift the snare and create what looks to the hunter, who watches in amazement, like a flying net rising on its own and vanishing into the sky. 


Related Activities


  • Drawing. This story lends itself nicely to illustration.
  • Discussion. Ask your students, "Name something you can do with a group that you can't do by yourself." List their choices on a board or chart.



"The Enormous Turnip" is from Ten Small Tales retold by Celia Barker Lottridge, New York: Margaret K. McElderry Books, 1994, pages 29 to 33.

In this well-known Russian folktale, a giant turnip is too large for a farmer to pull out of the ground. His wife joins him, and then each of their children has a try. A variety of neighbors and strangers all join in the attempt. They hold on to one another's waists until, at last, they yank the stubborn turnip from the ground. Typically the story ends with turnip soup for one and all. In the version from Ten Small Tales, a little girl excluded from planting and tending to the turnip ("You are too little to do anything!") finds a way to help: She whispers encouragement to the turnip. When the entire line-up cannot tug the turnip out of the ground, she steps over to the turnip and whispers, "Little turnip, you have grown big. You have grown gigantic. Now it is time to come up. Come up, little turnip, come up." Then she takes her place at the end of the line. All the people pull their hardest once more and finally pull the turnip from the ground.


Related Activities


  • Performance. This story works well as a short play because you can add characters to the line-up and include all the students who want to participate. You might add an animal, such as a dog, cat, goat, or a cow, to heighten interest. Even preschoolers can understand the concept and enjoy the drama. Suggest that when the turnip finally comes out of the ground, children fall backward like a row of dominoes.
  • Discussion. Ask your students, "What would have happened if everyone did not want to help?" List their ideas on the board.




This folktale follows the formula of accumulation; more and more characters appear as the action proceeds. In the story, a ram learns the terrible truth about why the farmer feeds him so well, so he runs away from the farm. The ram persuades his friend, a pig who lives on a neighboring farm, to accompany him. The two animals set off together to build a house in the woods, where they plan to live by themselves. Along the way, they meet a variety of characters, each of whom expresses the desire to go along. Before the ram and the pig allow a new character to join them, the animal must describe how he or she can contribute to the house. At last, an eclectic group forms. The animals select a spot in the woods, build their house, and live in it together. A wolf notices the house construction and plots to invade them, one and all. When the wolf attacks, each animal fights back in his or her unique way. Together, the animals manage to frighten the wolf away.


Related Activities


  • Performance. This story also lends itself well to performance because any number of animals can join the group and any interested student can participate. Each character must state what she or he can do to contribute. For example, the rooster can wake the animals in the morning, the hare can gnaw wooden pegs, the goose can pluck moss and stuff it into the seams of the logs, and so on.
  • Discussion. Ask your students, "Why did the ram and the pig ask the other animals what they could do to help before they were allowed to join?" The responses below are a sample of what some kids said.Colleen, age 6: "To make sure they wouldn't be a burden."
    C.R.J., age 7: "They asked the animals to see what they can do, so it would be fair."
    J.K., age 7: "They asked what they could do to help build the house because it wouldn't be fair if one person did it alone."
    J.E., age 7: "So they wouldn't just lay around and not do anything."




  • Folktales that illustrate the theme of cooperation lend themselves naturally to group activities. If you ask your students to illustrate a story, post all of the drawings on your wall. If your students discuss the story, be sure each child who wants to speak gets a turn.
  • You might ask students in grades 2 and 3 to write about the story at home and then share (and read) their insights in class.
  • Sending folktales home for family discussion provides an opportunity for families to reinforce the theme of cooperation.
  • If your students perform a story, be sure everyone who wants to participate can. If necessary, divide the class into two sections so that one half performs while the other section watches. Then reverse the groups.
  • Keep a story alive in the hearts and minds of your students by referring to it from time to time. You might say, "Now I'd like all of you to cooperate with one another, the way the doves cooperated in the story about White Wing's escape, remember?" or "You can find a way to help the group, the way the little girl did in the story about the turnip." "Do you remember the story about the ram and the pig who built the house? Each animal had something special to offer, and they all helped build the house together." Ultimately, the strongest magic of all will be manifest as the story becomes part of the unique culture of your classroom.

Elaine L. Lindy is CEO of Whootie Owl Productions, LLC, a Massachusetts-based company dedicated to storytelling that builds character. Whootie Owl Productions, LLC, founded Absolutely Whootie: Stories to Grow By, a Web site featuring dozens of fairytales and folktales from around the world. The site has been a USAToday Hot Site and a Highlights for Children TeacherNet Site and is recommended to teachers by Disney.

Beauty and the Beast Love Lesson Plan ~ Fairy Tale

February Theme of Love: Finding Love Where You Least Expect It

February: the month of LOVE and surely there are plenty of stories which cover the “traditional” love story. Our worldly stories, however, teach us so much more about love than just that.  This month we will explore love stories, each from a different country and each with their own unique message about what it means to love and be loved in return. This week’s stories are about finding :Love Where You Least Expect It".  Below you will find suggestions for a Beauty and the Beast Love Lesson Plan for both grades 2-4 and 4-6.

beauty and the beast Beauty & the Beast Love Fairy Tale 

The classic tale from France of a beautiful, smart, young girl who finds herself entrapped with a hideous Beast to spare her father’s life; a Beast who turns out to be more than what he seems. A tale as old as time…..

A story from France, this European Folk Tale is a wonderful tale of love that builds from friendship. Much like Disney’s version, but with some differences, there is also a secondary plot regarding three sisters, Beauty being the youngest, most humble, and the one to put the love for her father above her own wants and needs. She willingly goes to take his place and live with the Beast, whilst her older sisters only care about their selfish ways, getting their riches back and finding husbands who will “suit” them. An exploration of love in many forms, this tale analyzes love between a father and daughter as well as love that comes from truly learning to value another for their heart and not their looks. Beauty finds “Love Where She Least Expects It”, a love grown from friendship and true admiration for ones’ best qualities.

We offer two versions of this story: The Classic Version suited for a 4th-6th reading level and an "Early Reader" version in simple English suited for those with a 2nd-4th reading level.  This Fairy Tale offers a wonderful opportunity to meet Common Core Standards of Comparing/Contrasting Text to Film. The animated Disney version varies from the new recent version, which more closely meets the original classic tale. Another idea is to use the text to Debate Ethics:Does the punishment meet the crime? Last, I like to use this tale to analyze Point of View and write a Fractured Fairy Tale. What would this story look like from the Beast's perspective?

Stay tuned: The Fisherlad & the Mermaid’s Ring  

Adjectives Grammar

Adjectives and Characters with Cinderella ~ Bedtime Stories for Kids

Learn about Adjectives and Characters with Cinderella~ Bedtime Stories

Characters are the people or animals in the story. We can use adjectives (words to describe) to describe a noun (person, place or thing). In a story, they often tell us more about how a character looks or feels. They can tell us what someone or something looks like (short, tall, thin), colors (blonde hair, blue eyes, green grass), feelings (sad, happy, lonely, angry). 

While Reading the Story below, look for adjectives, words that "tell" us more about the characters in the story: Cinderella, the Step-Sisters, Step-Mother and the Blue Fairy. Then check what you've learned after Reading the Story with our at home or at school activities. 

Cinderella Story

Drawn by Ava, age 13. Thank You!

Cinderella Fairy Tale ~ English Story for Kids 

This is the Fairy Tale story of Cinderella. It is brought to you by Stories to Grow by. 

Once upon time a girl named Cinderella lived with her stepmother and two stepsisters.  Poor Cinderella had to work hard all day long so the others could rest. It was she who had to wake up each morning when it was still dark and cold to start the fire.  It was she who cooked the meals. It was she who kept the fire going. The poor girl could not stay clean, from all the ashes and cinders by the fire.

“What a mess!” her two stepsisters laughed.  And that is why they called her “Cinderella.”

One day, big news came to town.  The King and Queen were going to have a ball!  It was time for the Prince to find a bride. All of the young ladies in the land were invited to come.  They were wild with joy! They would wear their most beautiful gown and fix their hair extra nice. Maybe the prince would like them!

One day, big news came to town.


At Cinderella’s house, she now had extra work to do.  She had to make two brand-new gowns for her step-sisters.  

“Faster!” shouted one step-sister.

“You call that a dress?” screamed the other.  

“Oh, dear!” said Cinderella.  “When can I–“

The stepmother marched into the room.  “When can you WHAT?”

“Well,” said the girl, “when will I have time to make my own dress for the ball?”

“You?” yelled the stepmother.  “Who said YOU were going to the ball?”

“What a laugh!” said one step-sister.


“YOU?” yelled the stepmother.  “Who said YOU were going to the ball?”


“Such a mess!” They pointed at Cinderella.  All of them laughed.

Cinderella said to herself, “When they look at me, maybe they see a mess.  But I am not that way.  And if I could, I WOULD go to the ball.”

Soon the time came for the stepmother and step-sisters to leave for the big party.  Their fine carriage came to the door. The stepmother and step-sisters hopped inside.  And they were off.

“Good-bye!” called Cinderella.  “Have a good time!” But her stepmother and step-sisters did not turn around to see her.

“Ah, me!” said Cinderella sadly.  The carriage rode down the street.  She said aloud, “I wish I could go to the ball, too!”

Then - Poof!

All of a sudden, in front of her was a fairy.

“I wish I could go to the ball, too!”


“You called?” said the fairy.

“Did I?” said Cinderella.  “Who are you?”

“Why, your Fairy Godmother, of course!  I know your wish.  And I have come to grant it.”

“But…” said Cinderella, “my wish is impossible.”

“Excuse me!” said the Fairy Godmother in a huff.  “Did I not just show up out of thin air?”

“Yes, you did,” said Cinderella.

“Then let me be the one to say what is possible or not!”


“Excuse me!” said the Fairy Godmother in a huff.  “Did I not just show up out of thin air?”


“Well, I think you know I want to go to the ball, too.” She looked down at her dirty clothes.  “But look at me.”

“You do look a bit of a mess, child,” said the Fairy Godmother.

“Even if I had something nice to wear," said the girl, "I would have no way to get there."

“Dear me, all of that is possible,” said the Fairy. With that, she tapped her wand on Cinderella’s head.

At once, Cinderella was all clean.  She was dressed in a beautiful blue gown.  Her hair was set up high on her head inside a golden band.

“This is wonderful!” said Cinderella.

“Dear me, all of that is possible,” said the Fairy Godmother.


“Who said I was done?” said the Fairy Godmother.  She tapped her wand again. At once, a beautiful carriage came to be, with a driver and four white horses.

“Am I dreaming?” said Cinderella, looking around her.

“It is as real, as real can be,” said the Fairy Godmother.  “But there is one thing you must know.”

“What is that?”

“All of this lasts only to midnight.  Tonight, at the stroke of midnight, it will all be over.  Everything will go back to how it was before.”

“Then I must be sure to leave the ball before midnight!” said Cinderella.

“Good idea,” said the Fairy Godmother.  She stepped back. “My work is done.” And with that, the Fairy Godmother was gone.


“All of this will last only to midnight.”


Cinderella looked around her.  "Did that even happen?"  But there she stood in a fine gown, and with a golden band in her hair.  And there were her driver and four horses before her, waiting.

“Coming?” called the driver.

She stepped into the carriage.  And they were off.

Over at the ball, the Prince did not know what to think.  “Why do you have that sad look on your face?” the Queen said to her son.  “Look around you! You could not ask for finer maidens than these.”

“I know, Mother,” said the Prince.  Yet he knew something was wrong. He had met many of the young women.  Yet after he said “hello,” one by one, he could find nothing more to say.

"Look!"  Someone pointed to the front door.  “Who is that?”

All heads turned.  Who was that lovely maiden stepping down the stairs?  She held her head tall and looked as if she belonged. But no one knew her.

"Look!"  Someone pointed to the front door.  “Who is that?”


“There is something about her,” said the Prince to himself.  “I will ask her to dance.” And he walked over to Cinderella.

“Have we met?” said the Prince.

“I am pleased to meet you now,” said Cinderella with a bow.

“I feel as if I know you,” said the Prince.  “But of course, that is impossible.”

“Many things are possible,” said Cinderella, “if you wish them to be true.”

The Prince felt a leap in his heart.  He and Cinderella danced. When the song was over, they danced again.  And then they danced again, and yet again. Soon the other maidens at the ball grew jealous.  “Why is he dancing all the time with her?” they said. “How rude!”


“Many things are possible,” said Cinderella, “if you wish it to be true.”


But all the Prince could see was Cinderella.  They laughed and talked, and they danced some more.  In fact, they danced for so long that Cinderella did not see the clock.

“Dong!” said the clock.

Cinderella looked up.  

“Dong!” went the clock again.  

She looked up again.  “Oh, my!” she cried out.  “It is almost midnight!”

“Dong!” rung the clock.  

“Why does that matter?” said the Prince.

“Dong!” called the clock.

“I must go!” said Cinderella.  

“Dong!” went the clock.


“Oh my!” she cried out.  “It’s almost midnight!”


“But we just met!” said the Prince.  “Why leave now?”

“Dong!” rung the clock.

“I must GO!” said Cinderella.  She ran to the steps.

“Dong!” said the clock.

“I cannot hear you,” said the Prince.  “The clock is too loud!”

“Dong!” rung the clock.

“Goodbye!” said Cinderella. Up, up the stairs she ran.

“Dong!” went the clock.

“Please, stop for a moment!” said the Prince.

“Dong!” rung the clock.


“Oh, dear!” she said as one glass slipper fell off her foot on the stair.  But Cinderella kept running up.

“Dong!” said the clock.

“Please wait a moment!” said the Prince.  

“Dong!” rung the clock.

“Goodbye!” Cinderella turned one last time.  Then she rushed out the door.

“Dong!”  The clock was quiet. It was midnight.  

“Wait!” called the Prince.  He picked up her glass slipper and rushed out the door.  He looked around but could not see her blue dress anywhere.  “This is all I have left from her,” he said, looking down at the glass slipper.  He saw that it was made in a special way, to fit a foot like none other. “Somewhere there is the other glass slipper,” he said.  “And when I find it, I will find her, too.  Then I will ask her to be my bride!”


“This is all I have left from her,” he said, looking down at the glass slipper.


From hut to hut, from house to house, went the Prince.  One young woman after another tried to fit her foot inside the glass slipper.  But none could fit. And so the Prince moved on.

At last the Prince came to Cinderella’s house.  

“He is coming!” called one step-sister as she looked out the window.

“At the door!” screamed the other step-sister.  

“Quick!” yelled the stepmother.  “Get ready! One of you must be the one to fit your foot in that slipper.  No matter what!”

The Prince knocked.  The stepmother flew open the door.  “Come in!” she said. “I have two lovely daughters for you to see.”

The first step-sister tried to place her foot in the glass slipper.  She tried hard, but it just would not fit. Then the second step-sister tried to fit her foot inside.  She tried and tried with all her might, too. But no dice.


“Come in!” she said.  “I have two lovely daughters for you to see.”


“Are there no other young women in the house?” said the Prince.

“None,” said the stepmother.

“Then I must go,” said the Prince.

“Maybe there is one more,” said Cinderella, stepping into the room.

“I thought you said there were no other young women here,” said the Prince.

“None who matter!” said the stepmother in a hiss.

“Come here,” said the Prince.


“Maybe there is one more," said Cinderella, stepping into the room.


Cinderella stepped up to him.  The Prince got down on one knee and tried the glass slipper on her foot.  It fit perfectly! Then, from her pocket Cinderella took out something. It was the other glass slipper!

“I knew it!” he cried.  “You are the one!”

“WHAT?” shouted a step-sister.  

“Not HER!” screamed the other step-sister.

“This cannot BE!” yelled the stepmother.  

But it was too late.  The prince knew that Cinderella was the one.  He looked into her eyes. He did not see the cinders in her hair or the ashes on her face.

“I have found you!” he said.

“And I have found you,” said Cinderella.

And so Cinderella and the Prince were married, and they lived happily ever after.


Share Your Thoughts! Say What You Think ~

What Kind of Character is Cinderella? 

Remember: Adjectives tell us more about a character, such as what someone or something looks like or how they feel. Words such as (short, tall, thin), colors (blonde hair, blue eyes, green grass), feelings (sad, happy, lonely, angry). 



More Practice: 


Use these extra Activities to explore Characters at home or in school. 


whootie fairytales

Fairytales Spark Ethics Debate ~ Puss In Boots and Jack and the Beanstalk

Fairytales Spark Ethics Debate ~ Puss In Boots and Jack and the Beanstalk

What better way to spark a spirited classroom debate on ethics than by exploring the complex messages often found in fairytales?

Children enjoy a cozy familiarity with fairy tales. By basing a discussion of ethics on fairytales, you are launching from common ground. Children aged eight and older typically are ready for meatier ethical concepts, concepts that skirt into gray areas of lesser evils or relative priorities.

Following are a few suggestions drawn from the land of fairytales to get your students’ thought wheels spinning.



In the classic French fairytale “Puss in boots,” a clever cat engineers a succession of hoaxes and lies for the benefit of his master. As a result, his master eventually marries the king’s daughter and appoints Puss in Boots prime minister. All parties live happily ever after.

You can print a text version of Puss in Boots from the Internet. A well-illustrated version of the story is also available in The Golden Book of Fairy Tales, by Marie Ponsot (Golden Books).

The story begins with the introduction of a young man whose poor father has died and left him with nothing but a cat named Puss in Boots. The cat proves tireless in his devotion to his master and begins by delivering a sequence of gifts (rabbits, pheasants, and other game) to the king and queen. Each time, Puss in Boots announces that the gifts are from “the Marquis of Carabas.” Naturally, the king comes to believe the Marquis of Carabas is a person of great consequence.

Here, you might ask young readers, “Was Puss in Boots wrong to lie to the king and to deceive him?” The absolute quality of honesty can be leveled against the compelling urges of loyalty and friendship.

After several clever tricks, Puss in Boots leads the king and his lovely young daughter to a castle belonging to an ogre. Running ahead of the group, the frisky feline dares the ogre to transform himself into a mouse. When the ogre successfully transforms himself, Puss in Boots promptly pounces on the hapless creature and devours him. That enables his young master, who arrives moments later with the king and his entourage, to claim that the castle is his own. In so doing, the young man clinches his nuptial prospects with the king’s daughter.

Here, you can further challenge your students: “Was the cat wrong to trick the ogre and then kill him?” Youngsters who argued earlier that the king was in no way damaged by the verbal deceptions and exaggerations of Puss in Boots must reckon with an act leading to an untimely death.

Finally, pose this question: “Is trickery ever justified?” Challenge students to support their positions, whatever they may be, with cogent arguments.


This classic story offers a twist on the theme of honesty. We all know the story of young Jack, whose impoverished mother is left with nothing but the family cow. Jack is sent to market to trade the cow for as much money as he can. Jack is tricked into trading the cow for a handful of beans. In despair, his mother throws the worthless beans out the window.

Overnight, a giant beanstalk grows into the sky. When Jack climbs to the top of the beanstalk, he finds the home of a mean giant. Narrowly escaping from the giant with his life, Jack scampers down the beanstalk with two treasures stolen from the giant – a goose that lays golden eggs, and a magic harp. Thus, Jack happily secures the future for himself and his mother.

You might begin by reiterating that Jack faced imminent danger in the giant’s house (“Fee! Fi! Fo! Fum! I smell the blood of an Englishman!”). Ask: “Since the giant wanted to eat Jack, was it OK that Jack stole the giant’s goose and harp?”

Listen carefully to the arguments raised, pro and con. You might follow up with this remark: “Jack was an intruder in the giant’s house. Since Jack chose to enter the giant’s house, does that change your opinion?”

This exercise is also recommended: “Pretend you are the giant. Describe what happens when Jack arrives in your house and how you feel about it.”

In a 19th-century version of Jack and the Beanstalk, a fairy is introduced when Jack is climbing up the beanstalk. The fairy informs Jack that Jack’s father used to be a wealthy and prosperous landowner but a mean giant killed the father, stole everything his father owned, and reduced Jack’s mother and her infant son to poverty. That giant, according to the fairy, is the one who lives at the top of the beanstalk. By destroying the giant, Jack will restore his family wealth.

This version of the fairytale opens another line of questioning: “In the story where the giant had stolen everything from Jack’s father, do you think it was OK for Jack to take it back?” Most youngsters will heartily agree.

Follow up with this question: “What if it had been the giant’s father who had stolen everything from Jack’s father; would it still be OK for Jack to take the treasures?” Then ask: “What if it had been the giant’s grandfather who had stolen everything from Jack’s grandfather?” And then ask: “What if it had been 100 years before that the giant’s ancestor had stolen everything? Do you think it would still be OK for Jack to take the treasures?” Try to find the amount of elapsed time necessary, according to students, to justify Jack’s taking the treasures. Challenge them to defend their point of view.


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There’s a folktale from Tibet, “From the Elephant Pit,” that raises the question of whether compassion is always a good idea.

The story tells the tale of a hunter who dug pits to catch and trap wild elephants. One day, he comes to the pit and discovers that trapped inside the elephant pit were a man, a lion, a mouse, a snake, and a falcon. The lion warns the hunter not to rescue the human. Says the lion: “I and the other animals will prove grateful to you and will help you for your kindness to us, so rescue them. But please leave the man in the pit, for I warn you, he will forget your kindness and do you harm.” However, the hunter rescues all the animals and the man.

The other animals, indeed, later repay the kindness to the hunter. As the lion had foretold, the man betrays him. At the end of the story, the betrayal of the man is revealed, the hunter is appointed chief hunter to the king, and all ends well.

Children are asked this question: “Do you think the hunter was better off because he rescued the man from the pit? If you think yes, why? If you think no, why not?”

Following is a sampling of responses from youngsters who responded:

  • “Yes, you should always save someone in need.” — Vance, age 10
  • “No, because if he would have left him he wouldn’t have gone through all that trouble.” — Tara, age 11
  • “No, because the man tricked the hunter and ruined his life.” — Newt, age 9
  • “Yes, because he did something very kind, which is the best reward anyone could get.” — Laura, age 10
  • “Yes, because he got to be the king’s top man.” –Shawn, age 7


  • Before you begin a lesson that will lead to a debate about ethical issues, let children know that you are going to read a story and then you will be asking some questions about the story.
  • At the end of the story, allow children time to consider their personal responses to your questions, and ask each child to write down her or his response.
  • Break the class into small groups for discussion. Then hold a general discussion. You might want to list the arguments cited, pro and con, on different sides of your chalkboard or whiteboard.
  • Continue to look for opportunities in stories to raise questions for ethical debate. Your best source material will be stories that children already enjoy, such as fairytales and folk tales. However, modern stories and popular television shows and movies also provide opportunities for ethics duscussions.
  • Here’s a final rule of thumb: If the children enjoy a story, consider it a candidate for an ethics debate! Over time, as long as you keep those discussions alive, the capacity for youngsters to understand the complexities of ethical issues will grow.

Elaine L. Lindy is an expert on storytelling for character education. As Founder of Whootie Owl International, Lindy created “Absolutely Whootie: Stories to Grow By,” ( ) a Web site that presents a selection of fairytales and folktales from around the world with positive messages for kids. Each tale is upbeat, “kid-tested,” nondenominational, footnoted, and free to educators or home users. The Web site has been recognized by USA Today, Highlights for Children,, and The New York Times on the Web.

Elaine L. Lindy, Founder
Whootie Owl International
PO Box 600344
Newton, MA 02460
877-WHOOTIE (946-6843)

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Power of Storytelling

The Power of Storytelling ~ Stories Hold Magic and Values for Children

 The Power of Storytelling

Remember the ending to The Wizard of Oz, when Glenda the good Witch asks Dorothy what she had learned in her journey. Dorothy says, "I suppose I learned that when you wish and wish for your heart's desire but you can't find it, then maybe it's in your own back yard and you ever really lost it to begin with."

The ideas that many parents want their children to embrace - ideas such as cooperation, kindness, or honesty - may be the most challenging concepts for parents to get across. In a flicker, youngsters spot a lecture coming and are quick to mentally retreat, leaving behind a black expression that nearly every parent recognizes with a sigh.

Fortunately, "in their own back yard," parents already have a strategy that is fully capable of effectively delivering these messages to ready and open ears. I invite you to rediscover a secret weapon that you have always had - and youngsters have always responded to - the Story.

An Ancient Treasure

In these days of "virtual-this" and "electronic-that," there are those who might relegate storytelling to the dusty realm of a bygone era. Yet storytelling remains strongly rooted in our human cultural experience after all those years. We see it surface in many forms. From advertisers' sales pitches, to speeches delivered by public figures, to the fervent promise of broadcasters for "More on that story after our commercial break..."

Among children, however, storytelling holds even a stronger and deeper magic. Indeed, it appears that children demand stories with the same insistence as they hunger for attention or food!

Transfixed by Stories

Parents worldwide will attest to the phenomenon that is children and stories. The magical opening, "Once upon a time..." or "Many years ago..." will focus young eyes which, just a moment ago, had been aimlessly darting along the ceiling. Event casual openings such as, "Here's a story I heard today you might like..." or "Did you hear the story about...?" bring dangling and impatient feet to freeze mid-swing. A child engrossed by the travels of an errant fruit fly turns his or her full attention to the teller of the tale. The sense of concentration is palpable.

As a Girl Scout leader, I was once transporting a station wagon full of shockingly raucous 6-year-old Brownies. Three times I stopped the car to reprimand the miscreants for fighting, yellow, throwing, hitting. All to no avail. At a loss, I slid in a CD of fairytales. Instantly, the entire carload quieted. The would-be hooligans remained utterly still until the completion of the story, at which point they almost instantly burst into mischief again. The next story began and, once again, a hush replaced the bedlam.

Why is the attention of children captivated by stories? For one thing, the pattern of stories (a beginning-middle-end) sets up a structure that children recognize and understand. The end is sure to be satisfying - the triumph of the youngest of three children, the tackling of impossible tasks, the glory of a troubled romance set right. Such popular themes in fairytales demonstrate to children, as Bruno Bettleheim says in his classic study The Uses of Enchantment, "that a struggle against severe difficulties in life is unavoidable" but that if one meets the hardships, one will "master all obstacles and at the end emerge victorious."

Indeed, children seem to respond well to any story offering magic or fantasy, perhaps because, being young, they live more closely to the outer worlds of magic and fantasy themselves. When my older daughter was 4½ years old, she had started the morning with a small hole in her pants that by the end of the day was exposing most of her knee. "That hole is getting so big," I warned her, "soon you're going to fall right down into it." "You're joking!" she said with a chuckle, and then looked squarely at me - "right?" As children enter elementary school, their personal sense of time and place sharpens, but the world of magic and storyland beckons at the borders.

Contemporary stories from modern life can also capture powerful claims on a child's heart when the story features the child, family members, friends, or other people the child knows. Openings such as, "Did I tell you the story about your wild Grandpa Louis, who threw the whole town into a panic when..." or "I'll never forget what happened when you were just learning to walk and..." also rivet a child's attention because of the personalized nature of the tale.

Add to all of the factors the experience of hearing a story - that is, the voice of a storyteller, the impact of direct eye contact, the entertaining quality of hand gestures, facial expressions, ad-libs, and dramatic reactions to events in the story, and it's not surprising that children are mesmerized by stories.

The plain fact that stories reliably capture the attention of children creates a unique and significant opportunity for parents. Whereas youngsters often respond reluctantly if not outright rebelliously to direct parental instructions on how to behave, those same children will welcome and absorb the very same ideas when interwoven through a story.

As a parent, which scenario do you prefer? To relate instructions to a child whose expression dares, "Whatever-you're-selling-I'm-not-buying-it!" Or to offer those same instructions to a child whose expression says, "Really? Tell me more. Now."

While we can agree that stories are a powerful conduit, it's also clear that in and of themselves, stories do not necessarily deliver positive messages. In fact, stories can just as easily deliver negative messages, and often do. Imagine that a story is a form of transportation, a kind of express vehicle. Its contents may be fresh crispy apples, or its contents may be cartons of explosives. The contents that are loaded onto the "storytelling express at the outset of its journey will determine what's received at its destination. As a parent, your role is to load worthwhile messages onto your storytelling express and send it to its destination - the heart of your child.

Elaine L. Lindy is the founder of "Whootie Owl's Stories to Grow By", a Massachusetts-based website featuring over 100 fairytales and folktales that convey positive messages to kids, and are multicultural, illustrated by kids, and FREE. The site is a USA Today HotSite, a Highlights for Children Teachernet Site, and is recommended by Disney and The New York Times on the Web. 

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