Dr. Fawzia Mai Tung introduces her “May Fairy” series, the first volume of which is titled “The Wonderful Tale of Donkeyskin.” Written and illustrated for third and fourth-grade reluctant readers, the series retells global fairy tales through the character Grandma Nainai. Free teacher resources are available with each book.
Today, in the 21st century, many children reach reading proficiency around grade 2 or 3. They enjoy reading beautifully illustrated picture books and exciting fairy tales. Some start reading graphic novels. They also absorb a lot of ideas from the technological world around them at home, at school, and beyond.
Then, suddenly, around grades 3 or 4, they are told to start reading “chapter books.” Illustrations are in color only on the cover and often completely disappear. These same children now find easy chapter books too dumbed down for them, while books recommended by teachers and librarians are too high-brow, with many descriptions but little action for pages on end. They now start losing interest in books altogether.
These are the “reluctant readers”– the children who have the technical skills to read but “hate” books with a passion, calling them “boring.” They need books that can attract them, keep them reading, and stimulate their intellectual growth.
Thus, The May Fairy series was born.
Each book is beautifully illustrated in gorgeous colors and presents a story, either based on a fairy tale or a real-life person, as a conversation between Grandma Nainai and a grandchild. Many reluctant readers are first attracted to The May Fairy books’ colorful and attractive covers. They open a book and find the beginning text as a page of comics. They flip through it and become entranced by a plethora of beautiful artwork. Wondering what the story is about, they start looking at the words.
Little children like to interrupt the narrator, especially at the beginning of a story, so they can absorb the setting and own the characters. Today’s children have a lot of opinions, and they question everything they do not understand or accept. In The May Fairy books, this interaction between narrator and listener is re-enacted, leading to a reawakening of the child’s innate curiosity. Often, Grandma Nainai acknowledges the child’s opinion and changes the plot accordingly. See the read-along on YouTube below to view this in real-time:
As they read story after story, their metacognition, or upper-level cognitive ability, develops, and they eventually read the way we adults do: their eyes read the words while their minds process, analyze, summarize, draw analogies, or conclude.
In The May Fairy books, the author does not shy away from using the occasional big vocabulary word when appropriate. The “listener” in the book naturally questions it, and Grandma Nainai explains it. Thus, with every book the child reads, he or she acquires a larger and larger vocabulary, preparing them for more complex literature.
The May Fairy series bridges the gap between picture books and chapter books, retaining those features which attracted little children to picture books and fairy tales, yet leading them to develop higher-level thought processes and greater vocabulary. It lends itself to discussions and analysis, furthering the reader’s growth.
Note: A free teacher’s packet is available online for each book in the series. Linked here are the teacher’s resources for “The Wonderful Tale of Donkeyskin”.