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Fairy Tales and Their Role on Education

Updated on April 10, 2017

Stories are Useful

Fairy Tales for sure motivate our imagination, but can sometimes give us a false sense of reality while incorporating realistic scenarios. This is the main reason why some parents choose not to read them to their children. As an adult, I wanted to go beyond the surface of fairy tales and find out what their role may be in our children’s education and social development. All fairy tales talk about relationships and people, and the negative and positive interactions between them. I decided to do my research on this theme because I think even the worst stories can be used as tools for teaching.

Many believe fairy tales were told by word of mouth from one generation to the next. The main purpose of the stories was to teach a moral, which is kind of the focus they should still have today. Fairy tales originally were created for various readers of all ages. In 2014, fairy tales are mainly famous thanks to Disney’s astonishing movie business. The movies we have watched in recent years are mainly adaptations from their original versions. Some stories in their original form may have had a dark side to them which to parents many may be disturbing. Whether you agree or not, fairy tales can motivate a child’s curiosity and imagination

How can fairy tales help parents and children?

Parents are skeptical about fairy tales because the content in many of them is contradicting or confusing. In recent years we have also seen a shift in the way fairy tales are written; some seem to have more sad and depressive endings. The message of the authors is probably aimed towards “reality”. Is “reality” always the best way? Our perception of fairy tales can change as we look beyond assumptions. “Encouraged by the discussion about importance fairy tales have for children, a mother overcame her hesitation about telling such “gory and threatening” stories to her son” (Bettelheim, 27). We must remember that our interpretation of fairy tales, as adults, is very different from children. Child Psychologist Bruno Bettelheim suggests: “Adult interpretations, as correct as they may be, rob the child of the opportunity to feel that he, on his own, through repeated hearing and ruminating about the story, has coped successfully with a difficult situation (Bettelheim, 18).” The parents have the role of using these stories to make their children aware of those things they may not understand and help them cope with their inner troubles.

How can fairy tales help parents and children? It is important for our children to have a good foundation early on. Reading to them as early as possible can increase their interests in reading and other subjects as well. “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 once said. Though today many parents are aware of the importance of reading, Motoko Rich says: “.… parents do not read to their children as often as researchers and educators think is crucial to the development of pre-literacy skills that help children succeed once they get to school”(Rich, 2014). But not only can fairy tales open up a desire for reading, but they can also be a tool to help children cope with emotional and social issues. In her article 5 Reasons Why Fairy Tales are good for Children, Saoirse Docherty says: “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 (Docherty, 2014).” Making sure you read the stories with your child will help deepen their connection with you.

Psychological Benefits of Fairy Tales

The psychological benefits of fairy tales for children may be many. These benefits vary from child to child, and we must not only depend on fairy tales as the only tool. To quote Bettelheim once more, he believes that: “While it entertains the child, the fairy tale enlightens him about himself, and fosters personality development” (Bettelheim, 12). A child may have many feelings repressed that he may not understand and that is where the fairy tales come in to help. The stories have conflicts the child can identify himself with it, and the solution is also within the story. Also, he believed fairy tales can help a child cope with those emotions and fears in a healthy way for the time being, as fairy tales often offer hope for a better future.

Fairy tales can help us with teaching children cultural differences. Among the most difficult topics, parents and educators have to deal with, is physical beauty. With the issues society faces today, we need to use fairy tales to make it clear that beauty is not what we see in magazines. The need for “real” beauty is becoming more and more popular. Vivian Diller puts it this way in her article Building a Case for Real Beauty:

"As I see it, the yearning for perfect beauty is beginning to lose strength among everyday women and celebs alike. Boomers may have been the first to feel what I call “image fatigue” as their attempts to appear like younger versions of themselves led to too many inauthentic faces and bodies. This plastic, overly puffed-up image has become a turn-off to many, in part because such faces have all begun to look the same."

Bonding through reading together
Bonding through reading together

The Role of Relationships in Fairy Tales

For years society taught us how to dress, behave, and influenced our overall look. Addressing these issues can be hard for children to understand. However, parents need to use the resources available to help them cope. Fairy tales address these issues as well, and the message of accepting someone regardless of their physical appearance is also found in the stories. We can definitely teach children that no one is so “perfect”, that we all have flaws and that love is not only physical attraction, that there is a deeper meaning to it.

The first social interaction a child has is with his parents. The role of relationships in fairy tales is very important for children and their social development. They offer children examples of relationships and how to cope when differences arise. The work cannot be accomplished only by reading fairy tales, but also with help from parents and educators. The relationship the child builds with parents early on helps him in approaching others as they get older. According to Bettelheim, there is a point in the child’s life where he becomes “….able to gain some emotional satisfaction from persons who are not part of his immediate family…” (Bettelheim, 124)”. He also believed that the child’s experiences with the outside world would help him “…become aware of the limitations of his parents… (Bettelheim, 124). Children would prefer to depend on parents forever but they must have their own experiences. Fairy tales offer examples of social interactions in a way children can understand.

There is a reason why fairy tales are so popular and have remained interesting for ages, it is because we all love to imagine. As adults, there are still things in our unconsciousness that get a certain satisfaction from fairy tales. We must keep in mind that children do not have the levels of awareness that we have. Reading is a fun way to learn and children should not be deprived of such experiences. They, in fact, need those experiences to make sense of the world. It is why parents need to have a close relationship with their children and be ready and able to answer any questions as they may arise. I was a skeptic parent myself, but I have realized that fairy tales can do my children more good than harm.

More Useful Resources

Works Cited:

Rich, Motoko. “Pediatrics Group to Recommend Reading Aloud to Children from Birth”. The New York Times.24 June 2014.Web. 12 February 2015. Docherty, Saoirse.“5 Reasons Why Fairy Tales are Good for Children”.Scottish Book Trust. 5 June 2014.Web.12 February 2015.

Bettelheim, Bruno.The Uses of Enchantment the Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales.New

York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.1976. Print.

Diller, Vivian.“Building a Case for Real Beauty”.Huff Post. 25 January 2014.Web.12 February 2015.

Interesting Video on The Original Fairy Tales

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    • profile image

      Lee Cloak 2 years ago

      Very good hub, I consider reading my kids fairy tales extremely important, very interesting article, well done, thanks for sharing, voted up, Lee

    • delia-delia profile image

      Delia 2 years ago

      Yes indeed Fairy Tales can play a roll in education and also be inspirational...sadly in this day and age, so called fairy tales include too much disrespect and violence.

    • B. Leekley profile image

      Brian Leekley 2 years ago from Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA

      I read Bettelheim several decades ago, and my uncertain memory is that he also wrote that another positive impact of fairy or folk tales is that they teach a child that if you are brave and clever and keep your wits, you can cope with dangerous, scary situations. Hansel and Gretel, for instance, outwit the wicked witch who wants to fatten them up and eat them. Brer Rabbit convinces Brer Fox to throw him in the briar patch instead of boiling him in oil or skinning him alive. And so on.

    • kalinin1158 profile image

      Lana ZK 2 years ago from California

      Einstein said, "If you want your children to be smart, read them fairy tales," and he knew something about being smart! Fascinating topic, thanks for sharing.