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The Importance of Telling Fairy Tales: Why do such strange (but charming!) stories continue to entertain, inspire, and teach us after all this time?

February 25, 2014 32476 Views

Artwork from Isabella: Star of the Story Personalized Book

(Artwork from Jennifer Fosberry and Mike Litwin's Isabella: Star of the Story)

Isn't it amazing that we can still recite the general storyline of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, Three Little Pigs, or even Cinderella, years after they were told to us?

Telling or reading fairy tales to children while they're developing helps them grasp the meaning behind a story, and even relate to the message of the story. Among learning classic children's tales, learning to recite stories themselves, and experiencing magical adventures, children are often able to emotionally connect to the stories' messages in a big way. Sometimes a message in a particular fairy tale speaks to a child directly and resonates with them very deeply…without them even realizing it! It, perhaps, could be something they were feeling or dealing with they couldn't even put into words.

Frozen Cover
Fairy tales are stories of magic, wonder, and enchantment. They're stories that feature fantastic creatures, a faraway place, and dreamlike elements. They explore myth and take you to magical lands. They range from Robert Southey's The Story of the Three Bears (aka Goldilocks and the Three Bears) to L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (which just might be the first American fairy tale!) to Disney's Tangled and Frozen. Growing up with the teaching, reading, and telling of fairy tales is a wondrous thing.

Deepen your connection with your little one when you sit down to share or read a fairy tale together today. It can be a classic fairy tale you already love, a creative retelling of a favorite, or a completely new, modern story with magical elements. Alternatively, choose a fairy tale that speaks to an issue your child might be grappling with at the moment. After all, fairy tales have great lessons and skills to teach us all, for instance…

The importance of storytelling. During the early developmental stages, fairy tales teach children how to grasp the meaning and power behind storytelling. Learning about the history behind how a fairy tale came to be illustrates how stories are told, passed down, recorded, and told again. Hearing a favorite fairy tale over and over again will give your child their own storytelling skills—like telling a story in correct chronological order and paying attention to detail.

Overcoming a struggle or problem. Even though elements of fairy tales are fantastical, this can work in the message's favor. Sometimes it's easier for a child to confide in a story's message when it's simplified or reversed, or the setting/situation is removed from what they're currently facing. Think about Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Goldilocks is drawn to the Bears' cozy cottage—hot porridge, comfortable chairs, soft beds. But, the bears see Goldilocks as a threat in their own home (when really Goldilocks should be terrified to wander into an unfamiliar home that belongs to a family of scary bears!).
Dream Big, Little Pig cover

Confronting fear. Fairy tales, like Little Red Riding Hood for example, might give your children the courage to confront those scary monsters hiding underneath their bed or in their closet. It's important for your children to know that it's normal to be scared, but also that they have the power to overcome their fears. Fairy tales allow children to see their fears played out and conquered. Children can then use their imagination to confront fears and overcome obstacles.

A desire for adventure! It's no secret that fairy tales take us all to a faraway, mystical land. (Who doesn't love The Wizard of Oz?!) But, think about toddlers! Some fairy tales (like Three Little Pigs) are great for toddlers because they speak to the little ones who are ready to move beyond their comfort zones (i.e. those learning to crawl, walk, talk, and more). Stories like Three Little Pigs can inspire your children to be open to exploring danger and confronting it (both real and imagined danger, that is). While they also help little ones understand individuality, they also teach the importance of supporting one another. What a great message for parents and children to visit again and again!

You've heard your child say it before: "Tell me a story." Reading a book or telling a fairy tale before bed is one of the most validated reasons to snuggle up and postpone bedtime just a wee bit. Today, especially, is the perfect day to cozy in with your child and start a story with the classic "Once upon a time…" we've all come to know so well. Oh, by the way, February 26th is Tell a Fairy Tale Day!

READING TIP: If your children are at the baby or toddler age, be sure to choose fairy tale collections with lots of great artwork and illustrations.

Get Crafty! Authors like Brothers Grimm, Perrault (Cinderella), and Hans Christian Andersen (The Ugly Duckling) are among the most famous fairy tale writers, but you can be one too! Celebrate Tell a Fairy Tale Day by creating your very own fairy tale. Choose your favorite fairy tale to read aloud at home (or tell from memory). When you're done reading or telling, sketch out all your favorite elements of the fairy tale. It can be general plotline, specific character attributes, magical elements, specific settings, etc. Then, use these elements to write your own fairy tale! If your child's old enough to write, each of you can write your own and share your different renditions. If your child is not writing yet, record your child's ideas and come up with a story together.

What are your favorite fairy tales? Share the fairy tales you and your children love the most with us!

What if…

your daughter could become the main character in some of the most beloved fairy tales?


Isabella: Star of the Story Personalized Book

by Jennifer Fosberry and Mike Litwin

As soon as you open the pages of this book, your little girl will be flying as Peter Pan to the children's section of the library, searching for the book that is juuust right as Goldilocks, setting off on a legendary dive as Captain Nemo, and more. Fabled fairy tales, yellow-brick roads filled with munchkins, wizards, and witches, a spellbinding trip down a rabbit hole—the reading rainbow's colors extend endlessly in this all-encompassing narrative. By the final pages of the story, your daughter will have discovered the infinite wonders of reading and will declare herself "just someone who loves a good book."



Reading with Babies, Toddlers & Twos, Susan Straub, KJ Dell'Antonia, Rachel Payne.