The Value of Fairy Tales


I've been traveling this summer and one of my stops was the Black Forest in the southwestern region of Germany. The Black Forest is the land of fairy tales made famous by the Grimm Brothers.The area looks like it jumped out of the pages of a Storybook Workshop story with Disney-like castles, weepy trees, and gingerbread-like cottages dotting the landscape. Traveling through this beautiful region had me thinking about my fairy tale dilemma years ago. Should these stories be a part of our curriculum? Should parents and teachers read these classic (but often scary) stories to children?


Even though I recall with fondness many fairy tales from my own childhood, for years I avoided using them in my Storybook Workshop curriculum. My fear these tales would be too scary for my young students (odd thinking, since I read fairy tales over and over under cozy covers with my own three children). Intrigued by my children's love of these stories, I began to do research on the effects of reading frightening stories to children. What I discovered surprised me. Many notable early childhood professionals believe fairy tales not only provide children wonderful entertainment, but also help children face fears they may already have - and vanquish them. Furthermore, they provide cultural literacy, help to develop critical thinking skills, promote emotional resiliency and develop a child's creative intelligence through fantasy and imagination. When a fairy tale is shared by a parent or teacher, read with commentary and discussion, it can be a powerful moral teaching tool as well. I began to think very differently about these traditional children's tales.


At Storybook Workshop, we now read many hand-picked fairy tales with pre-discussion and commentary. To our amazement, fairy tales have become the most popular of all the stories we use. These stories are the most enthusiastically requested over and over in class. They are popular because fairy tales provide incredible nail-biting entertainment while also aiding in conflict resolution when introduced and used correctly.


Should you read these classics to your own children? I believe yes, if you choose your stories with care. First, consider your child's age and developmental stage when choosing a tale. Read the version of the fairy tale BEFORE you read it to your child. If you go blind, it may have a surprise element that you were not expecting (we've all been there).  Be prepared to edit (in your own words) some of the text and perhaps the ending. Keep in mind, young children love to identify good over the evil, right over wrong, be ready to share the moral of the story and to discuss conflict.  


Here's an example of how we successfully introduce fairy tales at Storybook Workshop:

Before we begin reading, we study the fairy tale's pictures and talk about how a book is illustrated. Using Three Billy Goats Gruff as an example, who are the characters are in the story? Children identify goats and troll. Is a Billy Goat a real animal, if so, have you seen one? Do real Billy Goats talk? Is there such a thing as a Troll? If a Troll is not real how is he in the book? This question is key, we talk a lot about illustration and how an author creates pictures for a story. By using this exercise, we have separated fantasy from reality, deflated fears and children now feel in control. Discussion continues during the story and at it's conclusion. Using drama to act out the story is another way to defuse fear/conflict and in the example of Three Billy Goats Gruff, our students are usually jumping at the chance to be the mean-spirited Troll!


Our favorite fairy and folk tales/ fables include:


Jack and the Beanstalk (English)

Little Red Riding Hood ( French)

Three Billy Goats Gruff ( Norwegian)

The Three Little Pigs (English)

The Gingerbread Man (English)

The Three Bears ( English)

Stone Soup (German)

Tortoise and the Hare (English)

The Gigantic Turnip ( Russian) 

Princess and the Pea ( Norwegian)


"If you want your child to be intelligent read them Fairy Tales. If you want your child to be more intelligent, read them more Fairy Tales."

-Albert Einstein


Happy fairy tale reading!


Tina Moran