Depending on which historian you believe, a person named Aesop created between 300 and 600 classic fables that have entertained, educated, provoked, delighted or annoyed millions of people across the world for more 2,500 years. But to this day, historians can’t get a clear picture of this enigmatic literary giant. There is still much disagreement as to when Aesop lived, where he came from, which fables he wrote or that he was even a real person.

Some historians claim that Aesop was a Greek slave who lived around 620 B.C., who ultimately gained his freedom by virtue of his great fables. Other historians say Aesop was an advisor to king Croesus of Lydia (an ancient kingdom in what is now eastern Turkey) in the 6th century.

Still others speculate that Aesop came from Thrace (an ancient kingdom in what is now southern Bulgaria and northern Greece), while others say he was from Phrygia (an ancient kingdom in what is now western Turkey).

An Egyptian biography of Aesop, written in the 1st century A.D., puts him on the island of Samos (a Greek island in the north Aegean Sea) as a slave who gains his freedom from his master, and then goes to Babylon as riddle-solver to King Lycurgus, and then meets his death at Delphi (a site for worshipping the god Apollo in classical Greece) because he insults the citizenry there with some of his beliefs.

Another group of historians believe Aesop was from Africa, since the name Aesop comes from the archaic Greek name “Ethiop” (as in Ethiopia).

More skeptical historians believe that Aesop was simply a legendary figure who never actually existed. Some think that the word “Aesop” was just a pen name invented for authors who didn’t want their true identities known.

The first historical reference to Aesop can be found in the writings of the Greek historian, Herodotus, sometime around 425 B.C. Herodotus mentions Aesop as a writer of fables, as do several other Greek writers, including Plato and Aristotle. And the famous Greek philosopher, Socrates, wrote down a number of Aesop fables from memory during the time he was imprisoned while awaiting his execution. Maybe Socrates found Aesop’s messages uplifting.

Fables always contain a moral, or “message.” Traditionally, fables use animals or objects as part of the narrative, but the message is directed at humans. A good example is The Tortoise and the Hare, one of the most well-known fables of all, with its moral, “Slow and steady wins the race.” This fable is generally attributed to Aesop, as are more than 300 other enduring fables. You can see the animated version of this classic now in the Classic Stories and Songs catalog at

Regardless of who actually wrote them, fables have been used throughout history to teach lessons in life. Today, ReadingFriend is using fables to teach kids to read. Our growing library of Fables and Fairy Tales contains some of Aesop’s most famous fables. You’ll find them in the Classic Stories and Songs catalog at

  • July 29th, 2016
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There once was a man who revealed to his friend that he was in the fourth grade before he found the key to reading.  Before then, he had always struggled with his reading.  His friend was curious as to what key he had found.  The man told his friend that it was the realization that letters stand for sounds.  Once the man made the correlation between letters (graphemes) and their corresponding sounds (phonemes), reading came much easier.

Without this basic understanding, beginning readers will struggle the same way the man had.

Teachers and parents strive to show and tell young children how it works.  Children first learn the names of letters that make sounds and words.  Often, there is too much emphasis on the order of the letters.  The correct order of the alphabet is not important in the early stages of learning to read.  And it isn’t important in decoding the written word.  It only becomes an important tool later when needed to find or put something in alphabetical order.  The alphabet is often shown in order on charts in classrooms as a convenience for children to see each letter, and presents the idea that there is an alphabetical order and that the alphabet is finite.

Practice in hearing sounds (phonemes) and seeing the symbols (graphemes) that represent the sounds are tools to help beginning readers.  People who teach reading use as many approaches as possible and endeavor to find what works best with each individual student.

The Reading Friend website has over thirty animated and interactive books that directly address hearing sounds and selecting the correct corresponding letters.  The titles can be found in the Main Catalog in the category Introducing Phonemes, Phase 1. There also is a full set of animated phoneme/grapheme flash cards in the Phonemic Flash Cards catalog.