5 Reasons why fairy tales are good for children

Philip Pullman's Grimm Tales - cover detail
Category: Parents

"If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales." Albert Einstein

This morning the press, and public, went into uproar over headlines claiming evolutionary biologist and writer Richard Dawkins thinks fairy tales are harmful to children. After a quick look at Dawkins' personal Twitter feed, and his subsequent interview with The Guardian, it seems that his comments have been misunderstood. Nevertheless, in light of the conversation, we look at five reasons why fairy tales are in fact great for children...

1. They boost a child's imagination and cultural literacy

A child's imagination is a powerful and unique thing. It's not only used to make up stories and games, it's a key factor in their creative thoughts and can define the type of education, career and life they have. With this imagination comes a cultural literacy; fairy tales often include different cultures and ways of doing things. They teach children about cultural differences in the world outside their own gifting them a curiosity to learn new things and experience new places.

2. They teach us right from wrong

Standing strongly within fairy tales of magic horses and glass slippers is a moral backbone. It's in a fairytale's DNA to have a strong moral lesson, a fight between good & evil, love and loss, and these lessons rub off on our children.

According to The Telegraph, Mrs Goddard Blythe, director of the Institute for Neuro-Physiological Psychology in Chester, said: "Fairy tales help to teach children an understanding of right and wrong, not through direct teaching, but through implication."

Fairy tales help to teach children an understanding of right and wrong, not through direct teaching, but through implication

Fairy tales teach children that good will always triumph and, while this may not be true in aspects of the real world, the lesson is simple and important. Be the hero, not the villain. Learn to hope for better.

3. They develop critical thinking skills

Following on from the last point, and as Richard Dawkins has pointed out, fairy tales teach children critical thinking. They see the consequences of characters decisions and learn that what will happen to them depends on the choices they make. Not all characters can be good role models, even 'the goodies' can be damsels in distress, or reckless (or feckless) princes. What the stories do teach though, is that when bad things happen, you have decisions to make. If you make the right ones, everything might just turn out OK.

4. They can help children deal with emotions themselves

Not only do fairy tales prepare our kids for society and making moral decisions, they teach them how to deal with conflict within themselves. Child psychologist Bruno Bettelheim, who specialised in the importance of fairy tales in childhood, believed that fairy tales can aid children in dealing with anxiety they are, as yet, unable to explain. In fairy tales children are often the main character and more often than not will win against the story's evil. Readers can relate to this and find a fairy tale hero in themselves. Watch any Pixar film for guidance on this one.

5. And finally, they are great fun!

I have very fond memories of curling up in bed and disappearing into another world where dragons fly and princes fight. My memories of overwhelming excitement when my dad came home with the latest Harry Potter book still makes my smile. The games I played with my friends in our garden were indisputably improved by our imaginations, which were still swimming in last night's story.

Whether it's for indirect moral lessons, improving their imaginations or because your child can't put that book down reading fairy tales should be encouraged. Read them together, help your kids invent their own and make sure they know can win against any wicked witch.



Saoirse Docherty

Saoirse Docherty is a third year student on Napier University's BA in Journalism. 

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