By Awnali Mills
A perfect storm happened recently. Sometimes that can be a wonderful thing, as in this case. We have been doing a massive weeding of our collection in preparation for our move to a new library, and a daycare called and wanted a storytime and craft for their elementary age kids with a topic of Mixed Up Fairytales. Since I had been going through the fairy tales section, already, an idea popped into my head and I ran with it. It turned out great!
The stories we read were The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka, Waking Beauty by Leah Wilcox, and Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs by Mo Willems.
They were really excited when I pulled out The True Story because their teacher had been referencing it all week although he hadn’t read it to them yet. After the story, when I asked them whether or not they believed the wolf, I got a mixed response. They didn’t quite know what to think. I would have loved to discuss unreliable narrators, but this wasn’t the right time 😀
After I read Waking Beauty, I asked if they’d liked the story. I got a resounding no! Which was really funny to me because they had been very vocal and reactive to it. They were so frustrated that the prince didn’t understand his role and because the princess had punched him. I had expected that the girls would dislike the story a bit, but that the guys would love it. That didn’t happen. The guys were just as frustrated as the girls! Isn’t that interesting? Here are these fairy tale characters whose roles are so prescribed for them that a deviation gets under your skin like a splinter. One of the guys even gripped his head in both hands and said, “Why doesn’t he Just Kiss Her???” They were absolutely SHOCKED that the prince got punched and burst out talking angrily with each other. So, even though the kids said that they didn’t like the book, I thought it was successful. It was definitely mixed up!
I absolutely love Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs. The humor! The sarcasm! The chocolate filled little girl bonbons! What’s not to love? The kids did seem to think it was funny, but it ended weirdly. After I read the two morals at the end of the story, the kids just sat and stared at me (the teachers were laughing.) So, I just moved on to the craft.
I explained how in The True Story the author had taken the bad guy and made him into a good guy, and the good guys and made them into bad guys. We were going to do the same thing. We were going to make up wanted posters for good guys in fairy tales. I pulled out a wanted poster that I had made for Hansel and Gretel.
I had taken discarded fairy tale books and pulled out pictures of characters that could potentially be charged with a crime.
I made up lists of possible crimes which included the official crime (larceny) and an explanation of what that meant (stealing something).
The kids cut the pictures up, glued them to a larger, poster sized piece of paper, and then created a wanted poster around it. I even managed to dig up some old white paper we had that was beginning to yellow on the edges, so it looked even more authentic. The teachers and I helped the kids by showing them how to make block letters, reminding them of the stories, and helping them match a crime to a character. The kids were very enthusiastic, and several told me how much fun it was. We had some of the prettiest, most colorful wanted posters I’ve ever seen!
On a side note, the main teacher and I discussed how kids seem to be lacking a basic knowledge of fairy tales. It’s shocking. Fairy tales were the warp and weft of my childhood, and it saddens me greatly that children are missing out on these wonderful stories unless they’ve been fed through the Disney mill. I’m not knocking Disney here. The first book I remember, that I asked to be read to me over and over, was Disney’s Sleeping Beauty. I named my first two baby dolls after the fairies Flora and Fauna. Disney introduced me to fairy tales and I actively pursued them on my own. That’s a good thing. But it should be only the beginning of a love for written fairy tales, not an end in itself.
Fairy tales are so ingrained in our culture that they are a metaphorical shorthand (ever hear a sports commentator say that it’s a real Cinderella story?) We can’t leave the stories themselves out, though. I confess that I NEVER choose to read fairy tales in storytime because, well, everyone knows them, right? And, frankly, they are often too long for a storytime setting.
So, what’s the solution? How do you include fairy tales in your library programming? How would you like to see them used?