Star-Bulletin Features

Friday, June 25, 1999


In an illustration by Kathleen Wong Bishop for "Fables From
the Garden," a coral-banded shrimp and snowflake moray eel
learn to cooperate for mutual benefit.

Teaching children well
through fables

By Nadine Kam
Features Editor


EVER since she was 7, Leslie Ann Hayashi dreamed of writing a book with her best friend, Kathleen Wong Bishop. It finally happened last year -- a mere 37 years later -- when the University of Hawai'i Press published "Fables from the Garden," written by Hayashi and illustrated by Bishop, who learned to paint to complete the project.

Since then, Hayashi, a Honolulu district court judge by day, has found something of a second career. She spends many a Saturday, evening, even lunch hour, bringing lessons in writing fables to children and teachers. (Bishop, a Christian education coordinator at Shepherd of the Hills Church in Phoenix, Ariz., also expanded her role as an educator, giving readings, talking about art and the mechanics of creating a book.)


Bullet 'Fables from the Garden': With Leslie Ann Hayashi and Kathleen Wong Bishop
Bullet Date: 7 p.m. Wednesday
Bullet Place: Barnes & Noble Booksellers at Kahala Mall
Bullet Cost: Free
Bullet Call: 737-3323

The moral of the story: Believe in yourself and share what you know.

"I'm so thrilled. This has really taken on a life of its own," said Hayashi, who also occasionally enlists members of her ballet class to act out some of her stories as she is reading them, taking what amounts to a performance art troupe into schools and libraries.

She and Wong will be giving another reading 7 p.m. Wednesday at Barnes & Noble, presenting pieces from "Fables from the Garden" and a sneak preview of "Fables From the Sea," which is slated for publication next spring.

Hayashi's enthusiasm for fables comes from her belief that all of life's lessons -- among them, the need to share, the importance of conservation and the desire to explore -- can be found in nature. And connections between man and nature are the stuff of fables.

At first, she said she researched only pieces of information she needed to know about the hermit crabs, eels and other creatures that she was writing about.

Then she started researching fables, which use plants and animals with human qualities to teach lessons and values. It's believed that this form of storytelling originated in India and spread to Persia and Greece, then the rest of the world.

Star-Bulletin file photo
Leslie Ann Hayashi, left, and Kathleen Wong Bishop were grade-
school pals who kept in touch over the years and teamed up to write
and illustrate "Fables From the Garden" and "Fables From the Sea,"
the latter to be published in Spring 2000.

Some of the world's best-known fables -- such as those about the slow-moving tortoise who beats a boastful hare in a race, and a crow whose patience allows him to find a way to drink from a long-necked pitcher -- are attributed to Aesop, a Greek slave, from about 550 B.C.

The foibles of the creatures in these tales point out characteristics that make us human, as well as reinforce the values that allow societies to live with some degree of harmony.

On the one hand, Hayashi's duties as a judge may seem to have little in common with her role as writer, but she said both allow her to help people take control of their lives and get back to fundamentals of good citizenship.

"I feel I'm becoming more observant of the ways that we connect, the things that we do and how people react. I find myself listening more to people talking about what they think.

"Through my research, I began to see the connections between things that don't seem similar," said Hayashi, who found herself embracing the Hawaiian and American Indian philosophy of tending the land, something that is important, yet not often a priority in a fast-paced consumer society.

"Everything is changing so fast. It's like a blur sometimes, and I want to catch a moment before it goes by and pass it to the next generation.

"The farther we get away from the soil, the more likely our hearts will become hard. We have to get back to nature, back to understanding each other. I'm beginning to hear it, see it, believe it, and I'd like to convey it.

"In Hawaii, everything I read indicates that we are losing our plant and animal life faster than other states. I don't think we've passed the point where we can't go back."


These works came out of the Hawaii Council of Teachers of English Fables Workshop for 4th- to 6th-graders:

The Animals Who Needed More

One fine spring morning in a lush, green forest, a stray tabby cat was stalking for food. All of a sudden, a limping field mouse hobbled over to where he was pawing the ground.

"Please help me! I was scurrying away from a fox and my leg hurts. I can't run!" he squeaked.

A baby pigeon waddled over just then.

"Help! I broke my wing when I fell out of my nest! I can't fly back to the nest!" he cheeped.

Turning to them, the cat replied, "Why must you run and why must you fly? Be glad with all that you have and you will be the happiest."

So they all lived and grew up together as friends.

The moral: The gift of life is more valuable than anything.

-- By Sara Tsukamoto, 4th grade, Iolani School

The Fox and his Selfish Attitude

Dog, the P.E. teacher, had a soccer contest with four chosen teams. The first game was between the foxes' team and the badgers' team. Fox was selfish and not sharing the ball with his teammates.

Dog noticed and warned Fox about the importance of teamwork but Fox ignored him. The other players on Fox's team got frustrated and didn't play as aggressively. Badger's team won the game 3-0.

Later, Dog spoke with Fox and told him, "If you had used teamwork, you team could have won the match."

Fox was sad and was never chosen on a team again.

The moral: You will earn respect by being a team player.

-- By Kye Kaneshiro, 6th grade, Koloa Elementary, Kauai

Earlier this year, she was approached to conduct workshops for the Hawaii Council of Teachers of English, to help youngsters learn about nature and fables by writing their own stories.

"At first I was nervous," said Hayashi, "I wondered if (the students) would get it."

She had little to worry about. The students, in grades 4 through 6, immediately picked up on the idea, turning out fables within an hour by anwering such questions as: What's your advice? Who will teach the lesson? Who should learn the lesson? and What's the event that will teach the lesson?

Even though the readings, workshops and talks take up much of her spare time, Hayashi, a mother of two boys ages 7 and 12, said, "To me, it's energizing because it's not what I usually do during the day.

"It seems like it involves the other part of my brain so it's fun, and to share the writing and talk to the kids, I'm happy to do that. It's amazing what you can pick up from them."

Her reading Saturday is part of Jed Gaines Read Aloud America program, founded in Hawaii in 1995 to encourage people to read.

"I have a real commitment to literacy in general," Hayashi said. "When I screen jurors I come across people so embarrassed to say, 'I cannot sit because I cannot read.' I think the (court system) needs to be teamed with a literacy program, or that we should have some kind of referral system.

"I'm already thinking that when my sons get older I hope that they will help to tutor someone else.

"Literacy is so fundamental. I don't know how people who don't know how to read get through life. And if they don't read, how are they going to teach their children to love reading?"

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