Hello. My name is Deirdre Mundy, and I have always had favorite Dewey Decimal number. I’ve always had favorites. I used to be a big fan of the 812s. For a while, I loved the 00’s – I couldn’t get enough ‘nonfiction’ about UFOs and monsters. These days, when I’m hanging out in Nonfiction, you can almost always find me in the 398.2 section.
If you’re not a library fiend, you may not realize that 398.2 is the land of fairy tales and folk tales. Some libraries are pretty strict – they reserve this section for collections of folk tales. Not mine. If you want Jamie O’Rourke, Strega Nona, or a gorgeously illustrated version of Cinderella, you have to hit the 398.2’s.
This year, my social studies curriculum for the 5 year old and the 7 year old is almost entirely based in the 398.2 section. Our method goes like this:
1. We pick out 4 or 5 promising folktales from the 398.2 section. They can’t be from the same culture, and they can’t be retellings of similar stories. (I like comparing stories across cultures, but my 5 year old wants more variety in her tales, so we’ll save that project for a few years from now.)
2. After we read a folktale, we talk about the setting. Why are the people dressed like that? What are their normal lives like? Where and when did they live? How are they different from us? How are they the same?
3. We use the web, our maps and atlas, and our history/geography books to learn a little more about the culture that gave us the tale.
It’s sort of a scattershot approach, but it’s working well for us at the moment. So far we’ve had a nice smattering of India, China, Japan, Greece, England, Ireland, and Scandinavia, Italy, Various African tribes, South America, various Indian groups and American. My kids are learning that the same sorts of stories get told again and again, across cultures. They draw parallels between Loki, Hermes, Anansi, Brer Rabbit, the tricky foxes, the leprechauns, etc. They see the ‘abused orphan turned princess’ story play out again and again. They’re starting to get a sense of geography and literature at the same time.
Next year, when my oldest is in second grade, I’m going to start on a more organized history curriculum, at least for her. For now, I’m very happy with learning about the world through the 398.2s.