A Harvest of Riveting Folktales

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A Selection of Nigerian Folktales: Themes and Settings, by Bukar Usman Klamidas Communications Ltd, 2020, 645 pages

BY Faith Ochanya Ochekwu

Iwish to first of all express our appreciation – “our”, in this case, refers to my students, my children and my humble self. We thank the author for bringing back ‘Tales by Moonlight’ my childhood favourite. I thank the author for taking away my children’s addiction to TV. The author has given us a resource that encourages healthy competition for “who has read the most stories”. For me as an English teacher who is constrained to teach via WhatsApp, these resources have made it easy for me to teach Comprehension because the narratives are delightful and easy to administer. May Allah continue to bless the author for lightening up our nation with passionate testimonies and riveting folktales.

First and foremost, the text A Selection of Nigerian Folktales: Themes and Settings by Bukar Usman is a naturally-ordained reading and teaching resource. This brief highlights the usefulness of A selection of Nigerian Folktales: Themes and Settings to a teacher, giving a bird’s eye view review of the content, structure and language of the text.

In terms of usefulness, the text is promising for fostering English language learning and increasing cultural awareness. It is a two-in-one or multiple resources for the English as a Second Language class (ESL). In particular, with the capacity to offer authentic indigenous content, from the six geo-political zones of Nigeria. By implication, these folktales hold promise for fostering the development of in-depth cultural knowledge and unity while improving linguistic proficiency in all four language skills as well as generating increased engagement in the learning activities. It is interesting to note that this learning resource also creates room for fun while learning.

Structure
A Selection of Nigerian Folktales: Themes and Setting employs simple, easy-to-read language. It is varied in terms of structure suitable for learners of all ages. For instance,The Ant and the Grasshopper (469) is written in 14 sentences, Why Kite Hovers over Fire (215) is written in nine sentences. These two stories are written in less than a page. In all the 700 folktales could be grouped into a page or longer and less than a page long. This makes the stories handy for learners of different classes – Nursery to Secondary schools. Simply put, there is a story for everybody. Class activities are easy to generate and assign, both for online and in-classroom learning. Tasks like reading comprehension passages, word inference, summary and paraphrasing, synonymy, antonymy, part of speech identification, etc. are a reality. One practical example is presented below:

The Chicken and an Old Woman
Once upon a time, Chicken went to look for food in an old woman’s premises. One day, the woman went to her farm and brought back some fresh pepper which she spread out on palm fronds in her backyard.
She called the chicken and warned him not to go near her pepper. But the stubborn fowl wouldn’t hear of it and went to peck at the old woman’s soup ingredient. When she couldn’t bear it any longer, the old woman got hold of a broom and gave the chicken a chase all the way to the village stream. When she finally caught up with the pepper thief, the woman had no choice than to kill him. This was how the chicken ended up in the old lady’s soup pot (746).
(A Tale Collected from South Eastern Nigeria)

This six-sentence full story perfectly fits into an online class that requires little but meaningful content. Secondly, it can also be delivered as an oral or written resource with few questions to tax learners mind. For example, what is the moral of the story? Identify five irregular verbs used in the story.

Language and Reading
Language is an important element which determines the choice of stories for learners. It is the language which gives existence to all the other fictional elements such as theme, plot, setting and characterisation (Okonkwo 1990). It involves grammar, lexis and graphology. When grammar, lexis and punctuation are simplified, reading will be easy especially for learners at the lowest grade. The Nigerian learner no matter the age should enjoy reading and even understand what is being read. Reading is one of the main areas of academic life that has lost its flavour due to the proliferation of media especially satellites and foreign soaps. Hence, the advocacy – bring back the reading culture.

Reading is necessary to improve the standard of education in the country. There are several advantages of reading as compared to watching television. One of such differences is that fact reading is a mind activity. It is a process that tasks the brain. This mental process when sufficiently developed brings out other skills- writing, speaking, listening and thinking. Invariably, reading enhances focus, imagination and motivation in learners. According to Rueangsanam and Dennis (2017), reading improves vocabulary; provides an insight into the diversity of people, their customs, their lifestyles and much, much more; improves concentration and focus and builds self-esteem. Similarly, reading helps stretch memory muscles because it requires remembering details, facts and figures and in literature, plot lines, themes, and characters (Divya 2008). Once again, all these potentials are deep-rooted in Usman’s Anthology of folktales.

A Selection of Nigerian Folktales: Themes and Settings by Bukar Usman is a valuable material for teaching and learning. It is written in a simple easy-to-grasp language and structured in diverse forms to suit learning in person and virtual learning. Most importantly, the stories are interesting and suspense-filled with well-refined content that increases the appeal of the anthology.

• Faith Ochanya Ochekwu, a tutor lives in Kaduna