Masters of Traditional Arts: Biographical Dictionary Book Cover

Alan Govenar, ed. Masters of Traditional Arts: Biographical Dictionary. 2 Volumes (Santa Barbara, California, 2001). 

An encyclopedia of 259 recipients of the National Endowment for the Arts' National Heritage Fellowship, 1982-2001. Features biographies and photos of every recipient in two text-book bound volumes.

Stompin at the Savoy: The Story of Norma Miller Book Cover

Alan Govenar, ed. Stompin’ at the Savoy: The Story of Norma Miller. (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Candlewick Press, 2006)

When she was just five years old, in 1924, Norma Miller knew just what she wanted to do for the rest of her life: she wanted to dance. It was the Jazz Age, the Harlem Renaissance, and Norma lived behind New York's Savoy Ballroom, the only dance hall in a still-segregated America where blacks and whites could mingle on the same mahogany floor.

Extraordinary Ordinary People: Five American Masters of Traditional Arts Book Cover

Alan Govenar, Extraordinary Ordinary People: Five American Masters of Traditional Arts. (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Candlewick Press, 2006).

Each of these artists is a recipient of a prestigious National Heritage Fellowship bestowed by the National Endowment for the Arts. And all come wonderfully alive through candid interviews with renowned folklorist Alan Govenar and captivating full-color photographs, highlighting their life stories, their art forms, their culture, their individuality, and their inspiration.

Folklore in Education

Many of these resources for educators will appeal to older students as well

Bowman, Paddy, and Lynne Hamer. Through the Schoolhouse Door: Folklore, Community, Curriculum. Logan: Utah State University Press, 2011, 286 p. This anthology of folklorists’ experiences in K-12 education is useful for educators as well as folklorists.

Bronner, Simon. American Children’s Folklore. Little Rock: August House, 1988. 281 p. This examination of how children create culture includes many examples of genres such as parodies, games, jump rope rhymes, and instructions for simple toys that remind readers of their own childhood culture.

Brunvand, Jan Harold, editor. American Folklore: An Encyclopedia. New York: Garland, 1996. 794 p. Although the over 200 entries in this comprehensive encyclopedia (ranging in length from a single paragraph to several pages) are scholarly in nature, the scope of coverage (rodeo, Appalachia, theoretical approaches to folklore, the tooth fairy, Internet urban legends) and the credentials of the varied contributors make this entry an invaluable browsing tool as well as a respected reference.

Burton, Bryan. Moving Within the Circle: Contemporary Native American Music and Dance. Danbury: World Music Press, 1993. 167 p. plus cassette or CD. Photographs, songs, and dances from many North American tribes.

Campbell, Patricia Shehan. Songs in Their Heads: Music and Its Meaning in Children’s Lives. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998, 246 p. Music educators will appreciate Campbell’s attention to children’s creativity and imagination in this ethnographic exploration of how children relate to music outside the classroom.

Campbell, Patricia Shehan, Ellen McCullough-Brabson, and Judith Cook Tucker. Roots and Branches: A Legacy of Multicultural Music for Children. Danbury: World Music Press, 1994. 153 p. Teacher resource for all grades, this book and CD set shares musical memories of people from 23 cultures.

Gillis, Candida. The Community as Classroom. Portsmouth: Boynton/Cook, 1992. 186 p. Good K-12 resource on expanding curriculum to include people and places in students’ lives.

Jones, Bessie, and Bess Lomax Hawes. Step It Down: Games, Plays, Songs, and Stories from the Afro-American Heritage. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1987. 233 p. A classic collection of games, hand-clapping rhymes, songs, and stories plus 70 activities. Cassette features Bessie Jones, one of the Georgia Sea Island Singers.

Lomax, Alan. The Folk Songs of North America. New York: Doubleday, 1975. 623 p. Although out of print, many libraries have this collection of lyrics, tunes, and notes on over 250 songs.

Long, Larry. Here I Stand: Elders’ Wisdom, Children’s Song. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, 1996. Working with young people who interviewed community members, a singer-songwriter helped them write and perform songs based on their fieldwork. A guidebook accompanies this CD and describes how to recreate such a project.

Lornell, Kip. Introducing American Folk Music. Dubuque: Brown and Benchmark, 1993. 251 p. plus cassette. A good resource offering lots of photos, some curriculum ideas, and thorough overview of traditional American music and its influence on pop music. Helpful to K-12 classroom and music teachers and grades 7-12.

Lornell, Kip, and Anne Rasmussen. Musics of Multicultural America: A Study of Twelve Musical Communities. New York: Schirmer Books, 1997. 348 p. The interdisciplinary text and CD closely examine several diverse American music communities.

MacDowell, Marsha, and LuAnne Kozma, eds. Folk Arts in Education: A Resource Handbook II. East Lansing: Michigan State University Museum, 2008. 350 p. A sampler of folklore in education lesson plans from around the country and lots of ideas and resources for all grades. Order or download at

Pryor, Anne, and Nancy B. Blake, eds. Quilting Circles ~ Learning Communities: Arts, Community, and Curriculum Guide, University of Wisconsin School of Education and Wisconsin Arts Board, 2007, 92 p. This beautiful spiral-bound book comes with a CD-Rom that includes quilt slideshows and video demos.

Reagon, Bernice Johnson. Wade in the Water: African American Sacred Music Traditions. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, 1994. 4-CD set or order individual CDs. These rich recordings from the public radio series of the same name chronicles African American history and culture as well as sacred music and include extensive liner notes.

Rodseth, Lars, Sally Howell, and Andrew Shryrock. Arab World Mosaic: A Curriculum Supplement for Elementary Teachers. Illus. by Michelle Gallagher. Detroit: Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services, 1994. 209 p. Written by anthropologists, this guide offers many activities relating to the traditions of Arabs in different countries as well as Arab Americans.

Sam, Sam-Ang, and Patricia Shehan Campbell. Silent Temples, Soulful Hearts: Traditional Music of Cambodia. World Music Press, 1998, 144 p. This book and companion CD present traditional music and culture of Cambodia, particularly how it is thriving today in communities outside Cambodia.

Santelli, Robert, Holly Warren-George, and Jim Brown, editors. American Roots Music New York: Harry N. Abrams, 2001. 140 p. This companion to the PBS series explores the traditional roots of American popular music.

Schafer, Andrea. My Harvest Home: A Celebration of Polish Songs, Dances, Games, and Customs. Illus. by Peter Schafer. Danbury, Conn.: World Music Press, 1996. 76 p. plus cassette or CD. Explore traditions and music of several regions of Poland as well as Polish American communities. Features Polish and English lyrics, recipes, and folk arts projects.

Simons, Elizabeth Radin. Student Worlds, Student Words: Teaching Writing Through Folklore. Portsmouth: Heinemann, 1990. 232 p. A teacher and folklorist, Simons offers background on contemporary folklore and detailed lesson plans for writing and folklore studies.

Sobel, David. Mapmaking with Children: Sense of Place Education for the Elementary Years. Portsmouth: Heinemann, 1998. 164 p. Find highly creative and developmentally appropriate mapping lessons for K-8.

Thompson, Paul. The Voice of the Past: Oral History. New York: Oxford University Press, 3rd edition, 2000. 260 p. Oral historians regard this as an invaluable teacher resource.

Toelken, Barre. The Dynamics of Folklore. Logan: Utah State University Press, rev. ed., 1996. 439 p. A good basic textbook on folklore and cultural process useful for teachers and older students.

Wagler, Mark, Ruth Olson, and Anne Pryor. Teacher’s Guide to Local Culture and Kids’ Guide to Local Culture. Madison: Madison Children’s Museum and Center for the Study of Upper Midwestern Culture, 2004, 70 p. and 139 p. Download free at

Zeitlin, Steven J., et al. A Celebration of American Family Folklore. Cambridge: Yellow Moon Press, 1982. 291 p. A full selection of family stories, customs, and photos for K-12 teachers to help students start family writing, oral history, and folklore projects.