They may be the oldest form of children’s literature, but fairy tales are often overlooked by parents today. According to some surveys, at least 25 percent of parents choose not to read fairy tales with their children, opting for less frightening, more contemporary stories.
But there are multiple reasons why these classic stories are the best books for kids. Fairy tales teach children morals and reading comprehension. What’s more, they are stories to be read over and over again, helping kids learn to read.
Here are seven reasons why every parent should read fairy tales with their children:
1) Fairy tales teach right versus wrong: A strong moral lesson is a part of every fairy tale’s DNA. When listening to Cinderella, for example, can’t any child immediately recognize the selfish, cruel behavior of the evil step-mother? Steeped in starkly contrasted models of good and bad behavior,fairy tales convey these lessons to their listeners, fostering a sense of compassion.
2) Fairy tales teach critical thinking: Every fairy tale worthy of its title places it heroes and heroines in jeopardy – whether they are threatened by a fire-breathing dragon, a hungry witch, or a greedy and jealous competitor. Instead of glossing over the potential risks the characters face, fairy tales teach children that bad things happen. But they also emphasize that if you keep your wits about you and make sound choices, everything will turn out fine.
3) Fairy tales teach children to be careful about whom to trust: While the hero or heroine of our tale may not always spot the evil villain in time to avoid peril, we, as readers, always do. The subtle message here for children is – be careful. Strangers may seem nice on the surface, but they cannot always be trusted.
4) Fairy tales teach self-reliance: Does Little Red Robin Hood need someone to accompany her on her way to Grandmother’s house? And although Hansel finds himself in mortal danger, does Gretel not figure out a way to rescue her brother? These young characters thrown in precarious situations are at the heart of a good fairy tale. When young readers can relate to these characters as peers, they begin to think of themselves as capable of heroic feats.
5) Fairy tales teach children the importance of exploration and being open to new experiences: Children face a lot of firsts. First day at school. First time at camp. First recital. First time eating something with so many unidentified ingredients. It is understandable when a child is not always game to try something new. But when they read about children in fairy tales embarking on adventure, they can start to imagine themselves as explorers.
6) Fairy tales teach children that hard work and practice lay the foundation for success: I love the fine line that fairy tales walk in this regard. Unlike contemporary literature that is often too subtle, or fables that can be far too obvious in pointing out the moral of the story, fairy tales allow children to come to this conclusion intuitively. Who wants to be lazy and let the Big, Bad Wolf blow down their house of straw and gobble them up?
7) Fairy tales teach children that no situation is hopeless: Think about the Three Billy Goats Gruff, whose chances of victory over the ogre seemed slim. Or the Bremen Town Musicians – animals who had been turned out of their homes with nowhere to go. The situation is far from hopeful at the start of these stories, but the heroes refused to give in. Instead, they came together and used their collective wits and skill to achieve what they set out to do.
Are you one of those parents who steer clear of these classic books for kids? Next time you are choosing a bedtime story for your children, why not give fairy tales a try? They are more popular than you think.