If you sit down the most restless and noisiest bunch of kids and say, "Once upon a time…..," immediately you will find an attentive, alert audience staring back at you.
While you tell them about flying carpets and magic wands, you will notice their animated faces and sparkling wide eyes. With gaping mouths, they will listen as though hypnotised, oblivious of their present surroundings.
Fairy tales fascinate us all. While as children we enjoyed colourful books that told stories of fairies, dragons, princesses and warriors, as we crawled into our teens, novels that involved magical lands, mythical creatures and the supernatural took their places.
We can never do without a little enchantment in our lives. It graciously steals us away from everyday reality into a plethora of different worlds and mystical times.
"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." Said Albert Einstein.
It is no wonder that even in preschool, teachers now read fairy tales to children. Many libraries have a cosy corner where kids gather around to hear their favourite stories being read out loud. It is delightful to watch that despite the differences in language or background, these children are all drawn to the same tales that speak universally to them.
Unfortunately, as kids grow older, they are often reprimanded for being scooped up in a corner with a storybook rather than textbooks. It is a shame that we often think of such books as a mere waste of time and an unnecessary read.
We do not understand that these books help in learning the language easily and quickly, without having to focus on grammar and syntax. And, since the readers are intrinsically motivated, the learning process gets massively simplified.
The eager reader subconsciously stores up a rich pyramid of vocabulary and phrases which otherwise would have been a tedious task. Why restrict the learning process to the four walls of a classroom when it can take place everywhere and beyond?
"No matter how your heart is grieving, if you keep on believing, the dream that you wish can come true."
"Sometimes We Only See How People Are Different. But If We Look Hard Enough, You Can See How Much We're All Alike."
Can you identify these lines? The first one was said by Cinderella and the other Jasmine's. These are beautiful words, are they not? Now imagine your child learning numerous meaningful sentences like these effortlessly and painlessly.
Also, what if the parents could join in this fantastic adventure and share the joy? For instance, reading bedtime stories cuddled up under the blanket with your little one can strengthen the bond between a child and the parent, create fond memories, and also be a beautiful learning experience. Such moments can become even more delightful when shared with siblings and cousins!
Fairy tales have been a friend to the lonely, fodder for the creative and a solace for many. We have lived and travelled with our favourite characters; won battles and love; our hearts wept at their sorrow and cheered at their triumphs. We marvel at the kindness Snow White was capable of despite herself enduring such cruelty. We appreciate how Shrek finds Fiona beautiful just the way she is as does Beauty when she sees Beast for who he is.
Again, Hansel and Gretel finding courage amidst their horrible plight embolden even the fearless. Importantly, as readers, we become more empathetic and humbled. We understand that the world is not always a kind place, but we can choose how we would face it.
Hence, one of the greatest gifts that fairy tales bring forth into our lives is its moral lessons. This is especially true for young and vulnerable minds. When we were young, the kindness of Simpleton in the story The Golden Goose, taught us to share and be empathetic toward the hungry and poor.
Even today as adults, we feel empowered when we see that a true love's kiss from Elsa saves her sister, Anna and not a man's; also, when Eep feels proud and flattered when Guy says "You are heavy".
Undoubtedly, these wonder tales help mould the characters of our precious children and shape their identities, making them more confident and considerate human beings. Moreover, many tales, such as the popular Japanese tale of Princess Kaguya, even has essential lessons for adult readers, it reminds us not to pressurise kids to be someone or something they would rather not be.
Today's impressionable generation also learns about equity when they watch Barbie surrounded by her friends, who are all from different ethnicity and race.
Additionally, Tiana from Princess and the Frog, Pocahontas, Moana, and Merida from Brave, to mention a few, all represent different corners of the world and are our beloved heroes.
Even as we grow up and are confronted with the harshness of adulthood, fairy tales never abandon us. While adult life hastily beckons us, we ardently long to join Tinker Bell, Peter Pan and his friends at Neverland, and stay a child forever. We want to be spirited away to theirs and other worlds by reading fantasy stories and books.
Hence, let us allow our creative youngsters to believe that they can ride on unicorns, befriend a mermaid and swing mighty swords against terrible trolls! As adults, we owe our children the opportunity to remain in the world of magic as long as they may.
Tanzima Baten is a lecturer at Brac Institute of Languages, Brac University and she loves to write about all genres of Literature and Language. She can be reached at tanzima.tuntun@ gmail.com.