Teaching Stories by Idries Shah

Girl reading The Old Woman and the Eagle
Little girl pointing at the cover of The Silly Chicken

Our publishing program began in 1998 with a series of 11 traditional teaching stories from Central Asia and the Middle East, collected and adapted for children by the author and educator Idries Shah and now available in paperback and eBook editions.

In 2021, we are very pleased to welcome Idries Shah’s daughter, Safia Shah, to our Board of Directors and to announce a partnership between Hoopoe Books and Kashfi’s Children, a U.K. community interest company she founded and directs. This collaboration will enable Hoopoe to co-publish, promote and sell additional children’s teaching stories authored by Idries Shah, and to provide them free of charge to at-risk children throughout the world.

These traditional stories have been commended by Western educators and psychologists, the U.S. Library of Congress, National Public Radio and other news media for their unique ability to foster social-emotional development, thinking skills and higher-level perception in children and adults alike.

“…a series of children’s books that have captivated the hearts and minds of people from all walks of life. The books are tales from a rich tradition of story telling from Central Asia and the Middle East. Stories told and retold to children, by campfire and candlelight, for more than a thousand years. Through repeated readings, these stories provoke fresh insight and more flexible thought in children. Beautifully illustrated.” NEA Today – The Magazine of the National Education Association

“These Teaching Stories can be experienced on many levels. A child may simply enjoy hearing them; an adult may analyze them in a more sophisticated way. Both may eventually benefit from the lessons within.”
 Lynn Neary All Things Considered,
 NPR News, Washington

Teaching Stories and the Brain

Speaking at the Library of Congress, leading psychologist Robert Ornstein gives a presentation on the effectiveness of the teaching-story in developing thinking skills and perceptions. His lecture includes a video version of two Hoopoe titles: Neem the Half-Boy and The Clever Boy and the Terrible, Dangerous Animal.

“Educating the whole child is not a new idea. It is rooted in the writings and teachings of many ancient cultures. Yet, achieving the kind of balance that encourages all children to learn, work and contribute to their fullest potential has been a continuing challenge as our world has grown more complex and our communities more fragmented.”
  —Maurice J. Elias, “Academic and social emotional learning,” Educational Practices Series-11, International Academy of Education (Brussels) & International Bureau Education (Geneva), 2003

“Our experiences show that, while reading Idries Shah’s stories can help children with reading and writing, the stories can also help them transcend fixed patterns of emotion and behaviour which may be getting in the way of learning and emotional well-being too. … We’ve found that this strategy can be particularly powerful, especially when change may be resistant to appeals to reason alone. By flying under the radar of emotion and analytical thinking, the patterns contained within a story can shift children’s perspective, to let them ‘own’ the meaning for themselves.” —Ezra Hewing, Head of Education at the mental-health charity Suffolk Mind in Suffolk, UK; and Kashfi Khan, who teaches English as an additional language at Hounslow Town Primary School in London

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