From representation to participation: Rethinking the intercultural educational approach to folktales

Annette de Bruijn*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


In multi- or intercultural educational contexts, folktales from around the world are often approached as representative of diverse cultures and used to transmit knowledge and understanding of the literary, social and cultural heritage of those cultures to children. In this article, I present contemporary critical literary, folklore and cultural studies'' perspectives to argue that this approach is conceptually problematic, risks reifying reductive notions of cultural difference, and does not take into account children''s active role in meaning-making processes. As an alternative, I suggest an understanding of the potential intercultural educational benefits of folktales from diverse cultural traditions in terms of children''s intercultural participation. Drawing on qualitative empirical data from a large-scale reading intervention program in Dutch kindergarten and second grade groups, this article illustrates how children from diverse cultural backgrounds use their diversity of knowledge and experience to interpret folktales from diverse cultural traditions. Based on these preliminary findings, I identify several possible intercultural benefits to be gained from valuing children''s culturally diverse contributions in today''s culturally diverse classrooms. While several limitations need to be taken into account, I argue that further research into the potential intercultural benefits of folktales should not only focus on issues of textual representation, but also on children''s active intercultural participation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)315-332
Number of pages18
JournalChildren's Literature in Education
Issue number3
Early online date22 Aug 2017
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • Intercultural education
  • Folktales
  • Reader response
  • Participation
  • Cultural diversity

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