Albert Einstein once said: “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.”
Developing a child’s reading proficiency and igniting their passion for literature is a priority for parents all year-round, however awareness days like the upcoming International Children’s Book Day on 2 April, are beneficial in putting children’s books and authors into the spotlight and further encouraging children across the globe to develop a regular reading habit.
International Children’s Book Day is celebrated on the birthday of prolific children’s author Hans Christian Andersen who, with over 150 fairy tales to his name alone, has certainly helped inspire a love of reading in children, past and present.
To mark the dual occasion of International Children’s Book Day and Hans Christian Andersen’s birthday, we have looked at his favoured choice of medium, fairy tales, and considered why it is important for you to tell and read fairy tales to your child.
Fairy tales help develop a range of academic skills
As a young listener your child will observe your storytelling skills and learn to mimic these as their own reading ability develops. They will learn how to captivate an audience using tone, accents, acting, dramatic pauses etc., as well as the components of effective storytelling like chronology and attention to detail.
In listening to you reading fairy tales and then learning to read from the books themselves, a child will develop strong memory skills; I’m sure as an adult you can still recall the details of your favourite fairy tales.
From the actual fairy tale plots they will develop in critical thinking skills, as they will follow the actions of the characters carefully and see the consequences of these actions, boosting their understanding of the world.
Through any sort of fictional reading a child will develop in creativity, but the fantasy, myth and magic of fairy tales offers even greater scope for them to think outside of the box. Fairy tales are full of fantastic adventures, enchanting lands and exotic creatures, all of which fuel their imagination beyond the ordinary and every day.
Fairy tales teach important life lessons
Of course the primary function of fairy tales is to be entertaining, but they also contain valuable and moral lessons for a child to learn.
According to The Telegraph, Goddard Blythe, director of the Institute for Neuro-Physiological Psychology in Chester, said: “Fairy tales help to teach children an understanding of right and wrong, not through direct teaching, but through implication.”
Of course the real world isn’t a fairy tale but a child can take the over-arching messages of these tales and apply them to their own lives, for example fairy tales teach great lessons in friendship and kindness as well in individuality and staying true to oneself.
Fairy tales encourage emotional development
Usually you would tell or read your child a fairy tale before bed to settle them into a peaceful slumber; this is important as it creates intimacy, routine, and a bonding experience between you and your child.
The majority of fairy tale plots and the messages they convey can resonate directly with a child, and can help them to deal with an anxiety they can’t yet fully explain. Fairy tales can teach them how to better handle and deal with their emotions.
Professor Yvonne Kelly of UCL said: “Children who listen to stories show better results in measures such as literacy tests and SATs – but also in terms of social and emotional development“; however, putting the research and studies aside, fairy tales are simply a wonderful way to add a bit of extra sparkle to your child’s day and encourage their love of reading.
Why not pick out one of Hans Christian Anderson’s wonderful fairy tales and read it together, act it out, or watch the related movie to celebrate International Children’s Book Day this April?
- The Ugly Duckling
- The Emperor’s New Clothes
- The Little Mermaid (Disney’s version is an all time classic)
- The Snow Queen (Disney’s Frozen is inspired by this story)
For more information about International Children’s Book Day, visit: https://www.ibby.org/awards-activities/activities/international-childrens-book-day/