Story-time with Erna #1: For Parents and Their Young Children during the Time of the Coronavirus

One of the great joys in my life as a young child was the experience of listening to stories my grandmother told us. These stories were quite unique, as they were folk tales that were orally communicated from generation to generation. All these stories were about animals—for example, The lion and the Jackal, Jackal and Wolf, Crab and the Jackal, etc. In my retelling of these stories, I am using the book  Famous South African Folk Tales by Pieter W Grobbelaar and Sean Verster.

Although the main purpose of this presentation is enjoyment, these stories also provide great opportunities for parents to talk to their children about the content of the stories to ensure that they understand what happened;  and why certain characters acted in certain ways. There is no better way to enhance children’s learning than to focus on their ability to understand oral and written language. At the end of the story, I will provide a couple of pointers on how parents can facilitate talking about the story with their children.

Story 1: How the Animals Chose a King—Featuring Lion and Jackal

Introduction to the story: Describing the context

Preparation: Explain basic concepts in the story by clicking on the pictures below and  talking a bit about the concepts with your child. You are welcome to use your own pictures and/or objects to make the story more meaningful to your child. If the child has any animal toys or hand puppets, those might also work well.

Picture of a Lion
Picture of a Jackal
Picture  of Horns
Picture of Fangs

  • What is a Trick? To play a trick on a person (idiom): to play a practical joke on someone.
  • “cooked his goose” (idiom): The idiom ‘cooked his goose’ means that someone is in trouble. Literally, the phrase means to heat up poultry, but the expression has come to mean something else.

Story: How the Animals Chose a King

Pointers for enhancing language learning

None of these activities should be regarded as “teaching” situations. The aim here is to cultivate an atmosphere of enjoyment while learning. We know that children learn best when they are having fun with their parents.

The development of language comprehension

Although some of the  questions may  seem a bit difficult for your child, the development of your child’s understanding of the story will happen in this interaction with you. Feel free to explain to the child in your own, more simplified way, if necessary,  what happened and develop the answers with him/her. Please expose your child to all the questions, but simply so that you can help your child understand. This is where the most powerful learning happens—in interaction with you, the parent.

Language comprehension questions:

What did the animals want to do?

Why do you think the animals needed a king?

Does a jackal have horns? And fangs?

Does a lion have horns? And fangs?

What trick did Jackal play on Lion?

How did Jackal’s horns end up on the ground? What happened?


1. Act out the refrain:

Above, below
Fangs show in a row
Horns spread wide
On either side

2. Draw your favorite animal in this story or paste a picture of your favorite character on a piece of paper.

Why do you like this one the best?

Finally, remember to talk about the story tomorrow again. It is by  fun-filled repetitions that stories come alive and children’s language abilities develop.

You are welcome to send me some comments or questions. I would like to hear from you.

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