International Children’s Literature Celebration: Folk and Fairy Tales

By Eleanor Conrad and Andrea Fowler

On December 2, 2023, the Wisconsin International Resource Consortium (WIRC) hosted the International Children’s Literature Celebration: Folk and Fairy Tales. Over 30 Wisconsin preservice and current educators and librarians came to Madison to learn more about folklore and fairy tales from European, Lebanese, Mexican, and Hmong traditions.

Images of the visiting author’s book covers.

The daylong event featured a keynote lecture and engaging presentations by European Studies affiliated faculty member Dr. Melissa Sheedy and three award-winning children’s literature and YA authors: Rochelle Hassan, author of The Buried and the Bound (ages 14-18); Karla Arenas Valenti, author of Loteria (ages 8-12); and Lori M. Lee, author of Pahua and the Soul Stealer (ages 8-12). The day before the official event, Sarah Ripp (LACIS) and Essie Lenchner (IRIS NRC) led author Valenti to visit classes in multiple local schools for presentations on her book.

Pictured from left: Rochelle Hassan, Karla Arenas Valenti, Keng Montero, and Lori M. Lee. Photo courtesy of Keng Montero.

Lenchner and Dr. Andrea Fowler (Assistant Director, Center for South Asia) facilitated the workshop, assisted by Keng Montero (graduate student, Center for Southeast Asia). During the event, teachers and librarians discussed histories of folk and fairy tale traditions from around the world, and learned several new engaging techniques and lesson activities, such as collaborative storytelling, comparative discussions, and answering questions as characters (also known as “hot seating”) to bring world folklore into their classrooms. The three award-winning authors gave individual presentations on their work, engaged in a roundtable discussion, and signed copies of their books for attendees. Lunch and refreshments were provided. Resources from this event are freely available online.

In anonymous evaluations, attendees said of the event: “It was very engaging and informative, and I felt that it was also very accessible to everyone. I don’t have a very deep background in fairy/folktales but this presentation drew on many topics that we can all relate to,” “As a future librarian, I am excited to promote these books & resources,” and “This is one of the best PD workshops that I have ever attended, & I have attended many. I was engaged the whole time.”

This workshop was supported through grants from the U.S. Department of Education, the Brittingham Trust, and the University Lectures fund, and sponsored by members of the Wisconsin International Resource Consortium: European Studies; Latin America, Caribbean, and Iberian Studies Program; Center for South Asia; Institute for Regional and International Studies (IRIS NRC); Center for Southeast Asian Studies; Middle East Studies Program; Center for East Asian Studies; African Studies Program; and the Center for Russia, Eastern Europe, and Central Asia; and co-sponsored with Asian American Studies at UW-Madison. WIRC is a collaboration among the nine UW-Madison Area Studies Centers with the mission to provide internationally themed outreach programming, resources, and support to K-14 teachers and students, Minority Serving Institutions (MSI), and Community Colleges. WIRC’s efforts and initiatives are an extension of the Global Wisconsin Idea.