Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Here We Go Again: Are fairy tales too scary for today's children?

Well, I admit I am planning an entire series of posts on this topic, inspired by Perri Klass's presentation at Grimm Legacies and my own reading. But this is a "top" news stories in the Daily Mail with a new survey to be considered, so I might as well share it while it's hot. Yes?

From Are fairy tales too scary for today's children? Parents admit they refuse to read classics to youngsters By Daily Mail Reporter:

A quarter of the 2,000 parents polled said they wouldn’t consider reading a fairytale to their child until they had reached the age of five, as they prompt too many awkward questions.

Instead, they favour more recent books such as The Gruffalo, The Very Hungry Caterpillar and the Mr Men series.

Steve Hornsey of television channel Watch, which commissioned the study to mark the launch of U.S. drama Grimm, said: ‘As adults we can see the innocence in fairytales, but a five-year-old with an over-active imagination could take things too literally.’

There's more article to read, of course, but the sidebar cannot be missed!

THE END? Top ten fairy tales no longer read to children

1. Hansel and Gretel - Storyline about two abandoned kids is thought likely to scare children
2. Jack and the Beanstalk - Deemed too 'unrealistic'
3. Gingerbread Man - Parents uncomfortable explaining gingerbread man gets eaten by fox
4. Little Red Riding Hood - Deemed unsuitable by parents who must explain a girl's grandmother has been eaten by a wolf
5. Snow White and the Seven Dwarves - The term 'dwarves' was found to be inappropriate
6. Cinderella - Story about a young girl doing all the housework was considered outdated
7. Rapunzel - Parents were worried about the focus on a young girl being kidnapped
8. Rumpelstiltskin - Parents unhappy reading about executions and kidnapping
9. Goldilocks and the Three Bears - Parents say it sends the wrong messages about stealing
10. Queen Bee - Deemed inappropriate as the story has a character called Simpleton

As always, my suggestion--know yourself, know your child. I'm not saying fairy tales are best for everyone, but don't throw them away either. We need our cultural touchstones if nothing else matters. And there are going to be bumps along the way no matter what when it comes to reading with children.


  1. I think that the parents are over-thinking it. Kids are tougher than we guess them to be. Sure, it's hard watching kids learn about the sad realities of this icky world, but with fairy tales, it helps them prepare for things like that.

  2. If a child is never exposed to anything but rainbows and butterflies, they will be in for a rude awakening when something even remotely resembling scary happens to them. Kids need to experience, but it seems today's parents are putting on safety helmets that do not allow the world to penetrate.

  3. My son loved the Billy Goats Gruff story despite being scared senseless by the troll under the bridge. He actually used to tremble when I did the "Who's been walking over my bridge" voice- and then begged me to do it again!
    As a young girl I loved all the most gothically disgusting and creepy Grimm tales with murdered children and cut off fingers- and they didn't warp me one little bit- muuaaahaahaaa!

  4. I have been an Early Childhood collaborator (teacher) working with children ages 3-5 for over 30 years. Everyone would like children to grow up to be imaginative and critical thinkers, but that's going to be difficult if you don't give them anything worthwhile to imagine or think critically about. Children will be left to their own devices with the reality parents foolishly think their children are not aware of. I read my young children fairy and folk tales from original collections to keep the gritty bits, stopping to discuss and speculate about the story and define words that are no longer in use. It is always amazing conversation.

  5. I agree that this is over-protective. My boys (from about age 4 and up) started enjoying my impromptu performances of the fairy tales I thought they'd like--several of the ones on this list, for example. That said, doesn't this concern just show (once again) that fairy tales aren't really "for children"? Somebody tried to tame them--and didn't quite succeed.