Once Upon a Story
December 12, 2012

I mentioned yesterday that we’re doing alot of holiday book reading at our house right now.  But in the midst of this, Preschooler has discovered a collection of fairytales that has long since been on her shelf, but hasn’t gotten alot of use.  There’s no reason for this, other than the fact that there’s always other books to read and this particular collection has fallen by the wayside.

Until about a week ago.  She pulled it out and began flipping through it while she was playing in her room one afternoon, and that night she asked me to read one of the stories.  We’ve since read from that book at every single nap and bedtime.  She keeps the book tucked under her bed, so she always knows where it is, and we pull it out out every time I tuck her in.

There always seems to be a controversy around fairy tales.  There are those who believe that many original (Brothers Grimm)  versions are too scary/violent for children.  There are some who believe that the versions with happily every after endings lead children to have unrealistic expectations.  There are those who express concern that the princesses are too “weak” and always in need of rescue.

Personally?  I believe they’re stories.  My 3yo knows this, without my having to remind her.  She knows that dragons aren’t real, that dogs don’t talk, and that the world outside her front door does not look like the “Once upon a time, far, far away…” land from her book. And even though she likes to think she is, Preschooler is well aware that she’s not actually a princess.

On the other hand…the stories were often originally told to scare children into proper behavior.  And not all the content begs for a cuddly read with small children.

I do allow for some “read aloud editing.”  The other night, Preschooler selected The Tinder Box as her bedtime story.  To be honest, I’m not in love with the message in this story(it’s a little “cheat your way to the top” for me).  But I rarely tell my daughter she can’t read something.  Instead we talked about how the soldier in the story was not very nice, and why stealing is wrong.  But beyond that, this particular story is a little, well, violent.  In the collection we’re reading from, it’s actually included in the second half of the book, which contains “Stories for Older Children.”  There’s a beheading.  And some wild dogs that cause someHunger Games-like destruction.  So…yes.  Edited.

But her favorite story by far has been The Emperor’s New Clothes.  She finds it hysterical that the Emperor would strut around naked (“He’d be too COLD!”), and there’s a good lesson in pride that comes from the telling of this story.  No editing necessary, we thoroughly enjoy this one as is.

So tell me…are your children familiar with fairytales?  Do you stick to the milder versions until a certain age?  Do you do some age-appropriate editing?  Are fairytales still an important part of a child’s literary upbringing?

Go ahead!  Sound off!


2 Responses to “Is There a Place for Fairytales?”

  1. I think you’re doing it perfectly what with the reading aloud, editing and such. Fairytales are primarily meant to be heard, not read. Right? My own favorite video versions are those of Shelley Duvall’s Faerie Tale Theatre back in the 1980s. I highly recommend them.

    • novalibrarymom says:

      I agree, Steve. When I was little, we lived in Germany for awhile, and I remember visiting this fairytale themed park that had miniature versions of many well known fairytales that could be walked amongst and interacted with. And not all of it was “toned down”. I remember being a little scared at some parts, but no more than I was when we visited Disney World (around the same age) and I encountered some of the rides there I’m glad my daughter knows and enjoys these stories. We’ll get to the full version in a few years :)

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