Learning Tip: Cinderella, Cinderella
By Susan Dichter
The value of fairy tales is often debated. Critics call them sexist—why must the princess wait passively for a prince to rescue her?—and complain that the tales are too violent. But before you dismiss fairy tales as inappropriate for your child, ask yourself why there are almost 400 versions of "Cinderella" in hundreds of cultures out there? Clearly, there is something in a child that loves a fairy tale.
Indeed, some argue that the fairy tale confirms what the child knows and adults try to cover up—there is evil in the world (witches that push kids into ovens, bad mothers who cast evil spells). But happily, fairy tales do not stop there. They suggest (as Bruno Bettelheim argues) that when children go out and meet the world head on, courage in hand, there is nothing they cannot do.
Kids need this message, along with the strength to face obstacles. We all know that it's not an Ozzie and Harriet world out there and therefore, why act as if it were? As J.R.R. Tolkien once wrote, "It does not pay to leave a dragon out of your calculations if you live near him."
LeapFrog recommends for adults:
Touch Magic: Fantasy, Faerie & Folklore in the Literature of Childhood
By Jane Yolen
The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales
By Bruno Bettelheim (Vintage Books)
Susan Dichter wears many hats—mother, writer, former teacher, museum director and librarian; her books include Teachers: Straight Talk From The Trenches.
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