A day with Aesop and the children

I learnt several things early on: That the deepest pleasures come from the simplest sources, that hard work pays off and that we can create opportunities to add to the happiness of others.

Before we moved to Leeds, Athina and I would visit an elderly man named Fred who sadly had no family and only a few friends left. He was extremely fond of the Ancient Greeks and on occasions we read the classics together. On Christmas day 2013, Athina and I decided to spend it feeding the homeless and those with no family at the Salvation Army. It was the day Fred gave us one of his favourite childhood books; The Fables of Aesop. A truly beautiful gesture and a book full of practical wisdom that has given us measureless joy.

During my own childhood, growing up in Athens instead of fairy tales, we read Aesop’s fables who was a slave and lived more than 2,500yrs ago. His mother-wit laid the foundation of his short stories and teachers used those to illustrate life lessons to us.

Today we remember Fred and his book. It is the last Friday, before Athinas’ school breaks for the summer holidays, which also means the last day learning about the Ancient Greeks :(

Armed with a few props and joined by ‘Aesop’ on my day off from the University I arrange to visit the lovely ‘Chidlers’ in Year 3 for one last story telling session. In my view, the mode in which we impair knowledge to children is fundamental and knowing how to tell a good story and engage with children is an indispensable accomplishment.

Children are naturally enthusiastic and creative. They love to be part of something fun and at the same time to be taken seriously. To produce some real benefits I intend to make this experience as interactive as possible. For each one of the 4 stories, I ask for the children to help me recreate the fable. In return I give them props to handle and ask the class for their input and to repeat the key lines with me along the way. For the last fable called ‘The crow and the pitcher’, I ask them:

  • Who likes water?

  • Who likes to play with pebbles?

  • Who is good at pretending to be a crow?

The kids can no longer contain their excitement; ‘ME-ME’ I hear them shout, with eyes wide open and a sea of arms stretching towards the ceiling. I brought pebbles and a glass filled with a tiny bit of water. I pick a few volunteers and begin to narrate the story.

‘A crow, ready to die with thirst, flew with joy to a Pitcher, which he saw at a distance. But when he came up to it, he found the water so low that with all his stooping and straining he was unable to reach it. Thereupon he tried to break the Pitcher; then to overturn it; but his strength was not sufficient to do either. At last, seeing some small pebbles at hand, he dropped a great many of them, one by one, into the Pitcher, and so raised the water to the brim, and quenched his thirst.’

While the story is developing I whisper their lines in their ears and encourage them to use the props for a truly outstanding theatrical performance. The children find this entertaining and are submerged in the ‘here and now’. The ‘crow’ casts in a few pebbles, then a few more and then invites everyone to watch the water rise. A boy shouts happily: It’s magic!

Having fun is important but the moral that accompanies each fable, is also important in helping explain important life lessons. What did we learn from Aesops’ fable today? I ask the class. A boy answers: ‘Little by little’ (I know what he means.) The class gives him a clap and we all repeat together: Little by little does the trick-

This mornings’ session was a celebration of history, of giving children the power of knowledge and making them think about values. After all, that’s what makes us humans and what we ‘carry’ with us where we go.

What a wonderful way to spend a morning; with Athina and her classmates. I hope Aesop’s fables inspires them ‘Little by little’-

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