African folktales have been told for centuries, passed down from generation to generation by families and by griots, storytellers who have preserved African history orally since ancient days. Folktales are especially fun for kids because they tend to be pretty short and have fun animals as characters.
African folktales, in particular, use a lot of animals as characters. The communities and storytellers from the region would likely have had a lot more interaction with wild animals than we are used to. The stories reflect a culture where animals abound. The natural world is very much a part of everyday life in many regions of the continent. In the tales, we meet jaguars, snakes, monkeys, lions, giraffes, zebras, crocodiles, and more.
Storytellers gave the animals human characteristics in order to teach lessons and illustrate the virtues and foibles of humankind.
Animal Character Sketch
Choose a folktale that has animal characters and make a sketch of each character in the story. You can find terrific how-to-draw tutorials for just about any animal by googling it. Around the picture write a description of the human characteristics you see in the character. Are they valiant? Selfish? Wealthy? Stubborn? Compassionate? Smart? Use all the words that you can to describe each character.
Describe your animal character in three ways: how the character feels, what s/he looks like, and what s/he thinks (or would say).
Here is a printable with three African folk tales for you and your kids to read and discuss together. Choose at least one character from each one to make a character sketch with descriptions for.
You can check out a lot more explorations about African history, geography, and folktales in Unit 1-14 of the Layers of the Learning program. Go check out all the fun, family-school style learning units in our catalog.