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The Little Red Hen

Little red hen

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The Little Red Hen is an old folk tale, most likely of Russian origin. The best known version in the United States is that popularized by Little Golden Books, a series of children's books published for the mass market since the 1940s. The story is applied in teaching children the virtues of the work ethic and personal initiative. It is so well known that it is frequently rewritten by pundits and bloggers to illustrate their favorite points.

Role in Reading InstructionEdit

During the 1880's, reading instruction in the United States continued to evolve to include primers that became known as literature readers. Prior to this time highly moralistic and religious texts were used in the teaching of reading. The Little Red Hen offers a transition to less blatant religious and moralistic tales while still emphasizing a clear moral. During this time, considering the interest of the young reader becomes more central to the teaching of reading. In considering the young reader the authors of this genre made their texts appealing visually both through illustrations and text formatting. "Margret Free and Harriette Taylor Treadwell were the first authors to prepare beginning readers with a content consisting wholly of adaptations from the old folktales." (Smith, 1965/2002, p.141). The genre of the folktale lent itself to repetitive vocabulary - an early reading strategy still in use today.

Plot summaryEdit

In the tale, the little red hen finds a grain of wheat, and asks for help from the other farmyard animals to plant it. No animal is willing to help. When the wheat matures, she asks for help to harvest it, then thresh it, then mill it, and finally bake the flour into bread. At each stage she gets no volunteers. Finally she asks who will help her eat the bread. All the previous non-participants eagerly volunteer, but she declines their help and eats it with her chicks, leaving none for others.


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