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When you write about a family or neighborhood tradition you are helping kids from many places to understand a little more about the world we all live in. These stories can also spark your own creativity, Great writers, like John Steinbeck, Jane Austen, and even Shakespeare used folklore of people around them to make their own stories more exciting and "lifelike." When you write these down, you are helping to record and document stories from your own history or community that would otherwise be lost.

Your folklore can take many forms. You can collect games, recipes, proverbs, songs or stories and document where and how you found them and what they mean. Also try to label your folklore from our list of folklore types.

Tips for Getting Started

  • Take a walk around your school, home or neighborhood. Imagine you have special glasses on — folklore glasses. If you see or hear anything that looks like folklore, write it down. You might be surprised at what you learn!

You might want to make a map of your neighborhood (visual). As you go for a walk, note on the map folklore examples you see (repeat chart with different types of folklore -- Oral/visual/cogitative graph.) It can give you a good picture of the folklore that's around you every day and what traditions you'd like to know more about

  • Talk to family members, family friends, classmates, or teachers. Tell them that you are working on writing, researching, and recording neighborhood folklore and family stories. Here are some questions you might ask or try interviewing yourself with these same questions!

  • When and where were you born?
    Where did you grow up?

  • Were there games you remember playing as a child? Do you remember the details and rules of the games?

  • What were special family or community celebrations you remember?

  • Were there any games, recipes, proverbs, songs or stories associated with those celebrations?

  • Where there any special celebrations that occurred in you neighborhood that were specific to a local tradition? Can you describe them and their origins?

  • Were there special adventures, dangers, or remarkable events in your family that people talked about and told? What were they?

  • What are some favorite family recipes that may be associated with a holiday or family tradition? Who passed them down?

  • Did anyone ever sing songs or lullabies when you were little? Do you remember the words to the song and who sang it to you? Are there any family traditions associated with it?

  • Are there sayings or proverbs that you remember hearing all the time growing up or that you still use? Who said them most? Do you know their origins or how they got started?

Once you've collected the information, you may need to do a little research on your own to find out more. For example you may want to learn more about a town or for more background information. Also try labeling your folklore according to our list of folklore types.


Sometimes, to get an interview started, it's useful to give the person a timeline. Start with a decade that people were likely to have lived in or have memories of:

1940 __1950 _1960 1970 _1980 __1990 __2000

Ask if there are any points on the timeline that remind them of important events; and if they might tell you that story.

Doing this kind of interview is called "oral history;" and today, oral history research is used by scholars, anthropologists, writers, artists, and historians for their work and ideas. In some cultures, such as Native American and West African, all history was passed on and preserved through the oral tradition; each group of people had a storyteller who was responsible for knowing genealogy and events of every family in the community. Today, in places like Mali and Senegal, no celebration is complete without the presence of the griot [GREE-oh] storyteller/oral historian, who tells or sings to family members the history of their ancestors going back many generations.

Now it's your turn to be the folklorist, writer or griot of your community. Send us your family folklore and neighborhood stories. We'd love to hear from you and add your stories to Scholastic's Online Folklore Archive.

Here is a suggested checklist of what you should include in your submission:

  • Your example of folklore (if it is in a language other then English, please provide a translation).

  • Tell us if it is: a family story, song, lullaby, game, poem, joke, folktale, riddle, proverb, recipe, special saying or other tradition we've talked about.

  • Provide us with the details on the origins and meaning of your folklore example:
    • Where is it from?
    • Who shared it with you?
    • How is it being passed on?
    • Why do you think it's important?

  • If you can, tell us what kind of folklore category you think it is: oral, material, behavioral, or a combination.

  • Tell us how you discovered it; what research you used (writing, tape recorder, map, timeline, Photographs) and if you learned something special.

  • If you're feeling creative, write your own folktale based on the folklore you discovered. (For more help on writing a folktale, visit Folktale Writing with Alma Flor Ada or the Storytelling Workshop)

  • Internet safety: Please do not disclose (include in the text) your full name or anyone else full name in your online submission.

Scholastic's Exploring Folklore Project wants to hear from children in the United States and all over the world. If you have a story to tell - whether it is in French or Spanish, Hebrew or Arabic, send it to us, with a short English translation. We're glad to hear from you. Bienvenidos! Bienvenue! Shalom!

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