Rich stories steeped in tradition and meaning, folktales for kids are a great choice for your classroom, no matter the grade. Filled with valuable lessons and explanations for the ways of the world, folktales across cultures and genres offer stories of morality and teach us important lessons. Folktales often include fables or animal stories, using a bit of imagination and magic to share observations about friendship, kindness, and good character. Often these stories have been passed down for generations, and different versions of the same tale come to life with beautiful illustrations in picture book form. With simple storylines and distinct, interesting characters, folktales also boost comprehension and listening skills. With so many different types to choose from, we’ve created a list of our favorites to get you started.
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1. Stone Soup by Jon J. Muth
The familiar tale comes alive in this unique interpretation by Jon J. Muth. Beautiful illustrations and attention to detail make this version set in China one of our favorite folktales for kids.
Buy it: Stone Soup at Amazon
2. Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears: A West African Tale by Verna Aardema
Following an appealing repetitive pattern, this Caldecott Medal winner is a must-read. Filled with rhyming text and gorgeous illustrations, the story uses cause and effect to teach us the value of honesty and how our actions affect others.
Buy it: Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears at Amazon
3. Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters: An African Tale by John Steptoe
Artfully told and illustrated, this award-winning book tells the story of a man named Mufaro who brings his two very different daughters before the king to choose a wife. The tale offers some of the traditional lessons found in folktales for kids while sharing the beauty of African culture.
Buy it: Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters at Amazon
4. A Taste of Honey: Kamala Outsmarts the Seven Thieves by Rebecca Sheir
Brilliant storytelling and humor make the adaptation of a traditional Indian folktale a great choice for your classroom. From the creators of the popular Circle Round podcast, this wonderful tale is both inspiring and entertaining.
Buy it: A Touch of Honey at Amazon
5. The Mitten by Jan Brett
Jan Brett is a master illustrator with a knack for rich storytelling, and her adaptation of a Ukrainian folktale demonstrates her signature style. Find out what happens when a young boy named Nicki drops his mitten and all the forest animals crawl in to get warm.
Buy it: The Mitten at Amazon
6. Tops & Bottoms adapted by Janet Stevens
A delightfully funny trickster tale about a bear and a hare, this enjoyable story is a hit with younger audiences.
Buy it: Tops & Bottoms at Amazon
7. The Courage of the Little Hummingbird: A Tale Told Around the World by Leah Henderson
A beautiful tale from Ecuador, this is one of our favorite folktales for kids for teaching morality in a meaningful way. Through one hummingbird’s bravery and heroism, we see that no action is too small to make a big impact. Sharing the value of community and working together to solve problems, this book is an important one.
Buy it: The Courage of the Little Hummingbird at Amazon
8. Why the Sky Is Far Away: A Nigerian Folktale retold by Mary-Joan Gerson
This wonderful story about taking care of our earth will resonate and inspire readers to be mindful of our valuable and most precious resources.
Buy it: Why the Sky Is Far Away at Amazon
9. Martina the Beautiful Cockroach: A Cuban Folktale retold by Carmen Agra Deedy
This intriguing story tells the tale of a cockroach ready to get married who heeds Abuela’s advice of spilling coffee on her suitors’ shoes to find a good match. Humorous and fun, this folktale is a joy to read and share.
Buy it: Martina the Beautiful Cockroach at Amazon
10. The Little Red Hen by Paul Galdone
As one of the most enduring folktales for kids, this story still holds great appeal. Detailed illustrations enhance the classic tale, making this version a standout.
Buy it: The Little Red Hen at Amazon
11. Jamie O’Rourke and the Big Potato: An Irish Folktale by Tomie dePaola
In the signature style of author Tomie dePaola, this silly tale about a very lazy man is an entertaining read-aloud. A great pick for St. Patrick’s Day or any time of year, make sure to add this one to your library of folktales for kids in the classroom.
Buy it: Jamie O’Rourke and the Big Potato at Amazon
12. La Princesa and the Pea by Susan Middleton Elya
This charming rendition of the traditional fairy tale shines with award-winning illustrations and Spanish words included throughout the rhyming text.
Buy it: La Princesa and the Pea at Amazon
13. Treasury of Magical Tales From Around the World compiled by Donna Jo Napoli
This collection of exceptional folktales for kids is a must-read for elementary ages. With factual information included in each, students can learn about many different parts of the world while getting swept away in these magical tales.
Buy it: Treasury of Magical Tales From Around the World at Amazon
14. Japanese Children’s Favorite Stories compiled by Florence Sakade
Another exceptional collection of stories, these stories from Japanese folklore are filled with lessons that teach students about kindness and honesty, while captivating them with enjoyable and accessible tales.
Buy it: Japanese Children’s Favorite Stories at Amazon
15. The Lion & the Mouse by Jerry Pinkney
When a tiny mouse comes to the rescue of a menacing lion, we see the value of kindness and friendship. In this Caldecott-winning, wordless account of the traditional tale, a picture truly is worth a thousand words.
Buy it: The Lion & the Mouse at Amazon
16. Saint George and the Dragon retold by Margaret Hodges
A knight and a dragon battle in this epic fairy tale. The story is both enchanting and eye-catching, and beautiful illustrations earned the book a Caldecott.
Buy it: Saint George and the Dragon at Amazon
17. Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin
With flying dragons and a quest to find fortune, this beautiful story combines the very best of fantasy and folklore. A young girl named Minli journeys to make life-changing discoveries for her family, and who and what she discovers along the way make all the difference.
Buy it: Where the Mountain Meets the Moon at Amazon
18. Anansi and the Moss-Covered Rock retold by Eric A. Kimmel
This silly tale of a trickster spider named Anansi is a lot of fun. Part of a five-book series featuring similar antics and based on West African culture, these stories are amusing to share.
Buy it: Anansi and the Moss-Covered Rock at Amazon
19. The Girl With a Brave Heart: A Tale From Tehran by Rita Jahanforuz and Vali Mintzi
This heartfelt story is about listening to the unspoken ways people express their thoughts and feelings. Set in Tehran and filled with lessons about kindness and compassion, this folktale is a gem.
Buy it: The Girl With a Brave Heart at Amazon
20. Raven: A Trickster Tale From the Pacific Northwest by Gerald McDermott
Another trickster tale about a clever raven who tries to give people the gift of light. This Caldecott Honor book showcases the beauty of the oral tradition.
Buy it: Raven: A Trickster Tale From the Pacific Northwest at Amazon
21. The Rough-Face Girl by Rafe Martin
Dramatic illustrations match the compelling text in this Cinderella retelling from Algonquin folklore.
Buy it: The Rough-Face Girl at Amazon
22. Adelita by Tomie dePaola
Another Cinderella tale, this appealing Mexican version has a unique twist. Interwoven Spanish words along with illustrations weaving in cultural elements greatly enhance the story.
Buy it: Adelita at Amazon
23. One Grain of Rice: A Mathematical Folktale by Demi
By the author of The Empty Pot, this alluring tale incorporates both morality and math into one great story that takes place long ago in India. Through the power of doubling, we learn how one grain of rice becomes more than a billion, plenty for one village and beyond.
Buy it: One Grain of Rice at Amazon
24. The People Could Fly: American Black Folktales told by Virginia Hamilton
This beautiful anthology includes 24 folktales recounting slavery in the United States while also preserving important African cultural traditions through these retellings. Filled with trickster tales, animal stories, and meaningful information about this time period, the book is an important resource for learning about American history.
Buy it: The People Could Fly at Amazon
25. A Story, a Story retold by Gail E. Haley
Another Caldecott-wining folktale to make our list, this one tells the story of Anase, the spider man, who seeks stories from the sky god, Nyame, to give to the world.
Buy it: A Story, a Story at Amazon
26. How the Stars Came To Be by Poonam Mistry
Gorgeous illustrations accompany the captivating tale of how stars made it into the sky. An enchanting choice!
Buy it: How the Stars Came To Be at Amazon
27. The Talking Eggs by Robert D. San Souci
This spin-off Cinderella story about two very different sisters is an adaptation of a Creole folktale that takes place in the American South. Some elements may frighten younger students, making it better suited for an older elementary audience.
Buy it: The Talking Eggs at Amazon
28. Town Mouse, Country Mouse by Jan Brett
Our second Jan Brett pick, this lovely tale shares the familiar story of mice swapping homes with an adventurous and fun twist. Distinctive and eye-catching illustrations enhance this imaginative adaptation.
Buy it: Town Mouse, Country Mouse at Amazon
29. Just a Minute: A Trickster Tale and Counting Book by Yuyi Morales
This lively tale highlights Mexican tradition while offering a unique format for counting to 10 in both English and Spanish. With endearing characters Señor Calavera and Grandma Beetle, this one is a delight to read aloud.
Buy it: Just a Minute at Amazon
30. Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina
Yes, this all-time favorite is a folktale! The beloved story about a peddler who must contend with pesky monkeys to sell his caps is a treasure.
Buy it: Caps for Sale at Amazon
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Plus, check out our list of fairy tales for more inspiration.