City Kids Stories, our writing program, is starting off the year with a unit on origin stories. Teaching origin stories is a fantastic way to engage kids in history, world cultures, geography, and cultural sensitivity, while getting in writing practice and thinking about genre and tropes. Our kids love the stories, and the stories inspire them to write their own. Because Africa is the birthplace of modern humans and, therefore, writing and storytelling, we began there, and we are making our way around the globe. We have also covered some Aboriginal origin stories, which include the concept of dreamtime.
Some of our kids struggle when they hear stories of how the universe, people, animals, land, ocean, etc, came into being if it differs from their own ideas of the origins of the natural world (whether they are based in faith, science, or maybe even both). We explain to the kids that for some people, these stories are their truth, and they are just as meaningful to them as anyone else's truth is to someone else. For others, these stories are meant to entertain or teach a lesson, and they do not believe in them literally. Every culture has diversity within themselves, and we teach that these stories do not represent a universal belief system in the cultures from which they come. There is value in learning about various cultures and beliefs; not everyone has the same understanding about the world around them, and that means we all have a lot to learn from each other.
It is also City Kids' mission to engage the kids in narratives they might not otherwise be exposed to. There are magnificent ancient stories from all over the world, and there is no reason to limit a child's exposure to literature; further, exposing children to diverse literature is one way for parents and schools to decentralize and decolonize their children's education and better prepare them for the diverse world in which we all live.
Even though City Kids is a secular cooperative, we place a large emphasis on learning about world cultures, and origin stories are a fun and engaging way to think about different cultures without judgement. If you teach your children about different cultures through their ancient stories, please share your experiences with us; we would love to hear them.