When children are asked what their favorite story is, they often say Cinderella, or a similar “knight in shining armor” tale. Why are children so drawn to these kinds of stories? The reason, I propose, is that sometimes a good work of fiction can feel more real than anything you might read on a popular news site. These tales have a sense of order and truth to them. Justice is served to the wicked. The princess’ heart is won by a virtuous man. Good triumphs over evil. Fairy tales offer a retreat into a world that can tell us more about our own.
Fairy tales provide readers with the idea that the supernatural and natural are blended together. In these stories, talking animals and pumpkins turning into golden carriages are commonplace. But in our world, things like miracles and God’s incredible providence are just as commonplace. Fairy tales can give us the idea that anything can happen and that with God all things are possible.
Fairy tales can also offer children an insight into God’s permissive will. They can see through the hero’s journey how moments of trial, distress, or even what might seem like a failure all happened for the greater good. They ultimately helped the hero reach the goal he/she was trying to obtain.
Reading these types of stories aloud to children can offer a deep intellectual intimacy between the adult and the child. Both are experiencing a story together that is teaching them about virtue. I often find as a teacher that after a really compelling read aloud there is a great benefit in allowing a pause of silence in the room to let the children ruminate in their hearts the text they just heard. It is moments later when many hands pop up and thus begins their storytelling of connections they are making to their own lives. This is why so many beloved fairy tales and other great works of fiction have survived through the centuries. No matter what time we are living, these stories can offer truth and wisdom in our lives. They are truly timeless.
When reading fairy tales to children, as adults we can often try to funnel down the “moral of the story” to a neat and simple bumper sticker slogan we pick out. But I would like to propose that when reading a fairy tale to let the children give their own opinion about the text and apply it to their own lives. Fairy tales offer children hope that good will overcome any evil they encounter in their lives. It can inspire trust and faith in God that no matter what comes your way, goodness will prevail. That, in my opinion, is a mark of great literature – one that inspires the reader to become more virtuous no matter what time or circumstance they find themselves in. So many beloved fairy tales do exactly that.
AUTHOR: Ellie Packer, Grade 2 Teacher