Children's Folklore Alive and Well Despite Societal Changes, Technology Advances

Released: 29-Oct-2008 8:00 AM EDT
Source Newsroom: Binghamton University, State University of New York
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Newswise — Despite being bombarded by technological advances, children's folklore is as lively as ever, says Binghamton University researcher Elizabeth Tucker in her latest book Children's Folklore: A Handbook. It is just being 'delivered' in new ways.

Examining the traditional knowledge shared by children - usually without adult involvement - Children's Folklore: A Handbook is the first American survey of children's songs, games, jokes, rhymes and other things children teach each other, published since 1995.

"So much has happened in children's folklore since 1995," Tucker said. "The world has changed so much. So many rules about protection of children have changed. Children play in more structured circumstances. There have been many changes in cultural patterns, so I welcomed the chance to write this book." "¨"¨

Released last month, Children's Folklore: A Handbook is available from Greenwood Press, through and Barnes & Noble. Although primarily meant for college students, it can also be appreciated by parents. "¨"¨

"There's so much that children do in their peer group that parents and other adults don't see," Tucker said. "It's the childhood underground. Among children, there's a certain kind of culture that tends to be transmitted especially when few adults are with them." "¨"¨

Some things in children's folklore have not changed. A child learning how to play "ring around the rosies" from parents would be an example of "nursery lore," but "folklore" occurs when a child learns a similar game from peers with rhymes that do not come from adults. This still happens today, as it has for many years. "¨

But as she started her research, Tucker wondered if advances, such as video games, the Internet and more television, had affected the amount of active children's folklore. She found that children's folklore was as vigorous as ever - it had just morphed into different patterns.

Tucker points to Japanese children using video cameras to play stone-paper-scissors and the "slam books" of the 1960s that featured girls writing about girls they did not like now giving way to interactive websites where the rankings of friends change. "¨"¨

"The same sorts of things happen, but technology alters their mode of expression," she said. "Children are very adaptable. They roll with the times. Their traditions change and develop according to their interests and circumstances. But the need to share traditional culture with others does not change." "¨"¨

About Elizabeth Tucker:
Tucker is an associate professor of English at Binghamton University. Her other books include Campus Legends and Haunted Halls: Ghostlore of American College Campuses, and she's also the editor of Children's Folklore Review, an annual publication that is the only journal in the world devoted to the subject.

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