Published: Sunday, 5 September 2021



Reading Level: 1

6 – 12 Sept: Stories

Key date: International Literacy Day | 8 September

The young woman’s life was in danger. The king’s wife had been unfaithful to him, so he had resolved to marry a new woman every day, then have her beheaded the next morning. But Schehrezade had a plan. On their wedding night, she told him an enthralling story. Then she started another – but stopped halfway through.

To discover the story’s end, the king allowed her to live for another night – whereupon she did exactly the same thing. As she told more and more stories, the king fell in love and decided to spare her permanently.

This is the framework for the One Thousand and One Nights, a collection of Middle Eastern folk tales. The reason given for Scheherezade’s brilliance as a story-teller is that she has read a huge number of books.

Books as we know them first appeared in the 1st Century BC. But it was not until the 15th Century, with the invention of the printing press, that reading material became widely available and literacy became widespread.

By the 1920s, around two-thirds of Americans could read. Today, 55 countries claim to have at least 99% literacy. But in some poorer countries it is still very low: in Niger, it is just 15%.

Is writing the best form of story-telling?


  1. Some of the most important works of literature, such as the One Thousand and One Nights and The Canterbury Tales, are stories which contain other stories. Write a story about a storyteller.
  2. As a team, think of a very short story with a simple plot. Take it in turns to retell it, with each member of the class changing one detail. Discuss how the final version differs from the original one.
  3. It has been argued that all stories follow one of seven basic plots: “rags to riches”, “the quest”, “overcoming the monster”, “voyage and return”, “rebirth”, “tragedy” or “comedy”. Make a list of your favourite books and explain which of these plots they follow.

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