Albert Einstein was asked once how we could make our children intelligent. His reply was both simple and wise. “If you want your children to be intelligent,” he said, “read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.”
Most of us grew up on “Once upon a time” stories, read to us by parents or read by ourselves. The originals are what Einstein read — not the Disney version — and we recommend them for good reason. As one blogger aptly puts it: “It is of vital importance that we not try to whitewash the fairy tales, because that slightly grim edge is what makes them useful. The world is a scary place, but children are innocents. You don’t want to terrify them, or rob them of that feeling of safety; however, you want them to be safe, and wise. Fairy tales are the perfect vehicle for this. They present a world that is much like our own, only it is just fantastical enough to not be personally threatening to the child. Rather than shelter children from life’s evils, we can equip them with the tools needed to face them head-on with confidence.”
Kids are able to look into this fairy tale world without feeling threatened — because the events are clearly happening in another world. How do you help them enter fully into that world? With the help of good illustrations that complement the power and beauty of classic stories. Some excellent examples are Rumpelstiltskin by Paul Zelinsky, Little Red Riding Hood by Trina Schart Hyman, and The Nightingale by LizbethZwerger — all of which can be found or ordered through local bookstores.
What if your child insists on the version of “The Little Mermaid” with Ariel on the cover? As with any book, read it first before buying. Would your child appreciate it even if he or she hasn’t watched the movie version in its entirety? Does it use difficult words in an attempt to capture the essence of the story in 12 pages with 2 sentences each? Will your little reader gets a summary instead of a richly nuanced story? The Disney cover easily attracts a child’s attention, but give them the original tale with great illustrations and perhaps they’ll enjoy that more.
What fairy tales do you like reading best to your kids? Tell us and we’ll look for good illustrated versions to make storytelling more pleasurable for both of you!