When a Fairy Tale is Not Enough

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. -Albert Einstein-


Fairy Tales are the root of storytelling.  They are also the most popular children’s books. No surprise at all!  I have been reading fairy tales for decades, and telling them, too.  Children can’t get enough, and I know why.

Fairy Tales give children the biggest and most important lessons in life; good vs evil, right vs wrong.  Every child wants to be a princess or a king or a dragon.  These timeless tales let children figure out ‘life’.  Yes, life.

There are bad guys and scary creatures in fairy tales.  Terrible things happen.  There are good guys; hens, bears, billy goats, boys, girls.  Good things happen.  That’s how children learn.  Well, that’s how they learn about the most important things in life.  Really.

My class loves Goldilocks and the Three Bears.  We couldn’t get enough of this classic fairy tale.


We read multiple versions, with books by Jan Brett and Paul Galdone being the favorites.  We debated Goldilocks; not if she was good or bad, but far more.  Why did she not listen to her mother and go into the house of the three bears?  She opened the door  on her own! The “W” questions (who, what, when, where, and also how) trigger the deepest discussions.  Oh, how I love seizing that moment.  When I read-aloud I stop.  All the time.  The best learning happens spontaneously.

I introduced humor, Mo Willems version, Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs.  Humor is sophisticated for young children, so reading this book after the other versions took them to a new level.  They ‘got it’.  The inside cover of the book was the icing on the cake, with each potential title crossed out, such as, “Goldilocks and the Three Alligators.”

Ah-ha!  Children went from a deep understanding of a classic fairy tale to one with sophisticated humor.  Yet, they wanted more.  So, we wrote our own version of Goldilocks and the Three Bears.


The language in this story is rich and full of thinking for three and four-year-olds.  “Goldilocks was a not-listener.”  “She was sad and angry and that made her tired.”  “They investigated the house.”

This story can only happen from children who have read a fairy tale.  Albert Einstein was right.


About Jennie

I have been teaching preschool for over thirty years. This is my passion. I believe that children have a voice, and that is the catalyst to enhance or even change the learning experience. Emergent curriculum opens young minds. It's the little things that happen in the classroom that are most important and exciting. That's what I write about. I am highlighted in the the new edition of Jim Trelease's bestselling book, "The Read-Aloud Handbook" because of my reading to children. My class has designed quilts that hang as permanent displays at both the National Liberty Museum in Philadelphia, and the Fisher House at the Boston VA Hospital.
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44 Responses to When a Fairy Tale is Not Enough

  1. Norah says:

    Love this, Jennie! And of course I totally agree. I very much enjoyed the story written by the children. It has every element, and such sophisticated language and emotional responses. I do miss writing time with children. 😦 I’m so pleased to see the inclusion of Mo Willems’ book. It is hilarious – on so many levels. I’m pleased the children enjoyed all the alternate titles. I wonder have they thought to write one themselves.

    • Jennie says:

      Thank you, Norah. They really enjoyed all the different versions. Have you read, “Somebody and the Three Blairs?” It’s a good one. The story was language-rich and full of thought. No, I have not had children write their own ‘different’ versions. Perhaps if they were kindergarteners I would.

      • Norah says:

        No, I haven’t heard of the Three Blairs. Sounds interesting! Are your children younger than kindergarteners? I’m sure they’d have fun making up their own versions, even if they couldn’t write. 🙂

      • Jennie says:

        They are 3 and 4-years-old. They loved writing their own version, that’s the photo in the post. Great language and thinking from preschoolers.

      • Norah says:

        It is indeed. You age group labels are obviously different from ours here, which makes comparisons a little confusing. We used to have “preschool” for 4-5 year olds, but don’t any more. Kindergarten is for 3 year olds. We now have prep (the first year of formal school) for 41/2 to 51/2 year olds. 🙂

      • Jennie says:

        That is so interesting, and quite different.

  2. 1Wise-Woman says:

    Beautiful posts! I’m a lover of children’s books and also worked with children for years. Glad I stumbled upon your blog as I’m looking to add some variety to my reader, looking forward to reading more 🙂

  3. beetleypete says:

    Nice to see how well the children summed up the story. As you say, they really ‘got it’!
    Best wishes, Pete.

  4. Chris White says:

    Nice post Jennie. I recently read a funny rewrite of a tale called B.B. Wolf: The True Story. Poor old wolf was so misunderstood. 😉

    • Jennie says:

      I like that book, too! We just did an impromptu play performance of The Three Little Pigs, but first we debated on whether the wolf ate the pigs or not.

  5. I noticed your kids’ use of the word ‘investigated’ in their version of the story…quite the vocab!

    Oh and I like how they figured out why Goldilocks got so tired:because she was sad and angry…true energy zappers, for sure.

    And, teacher, you get an A+ for printing! 😉

  6. I wish you were teaching teachers.

  7. You all did a great job with your version, sounds like another wonderful classroom time. And you get a gold star for your perfect handwriting! 🙂

  8. I love Einstein’s quote and the reasoning and word usage on your student example of a re-telling of Goldilocks is amazing for children so young. This is what wonderful teachers do and you are among the best of the best. Awesome! Your students are so fortunate. 🙂 Great post!

  9. srbottch says:

    Jennie, Albert Einstein was right about lots of things. But he didn’t have to teach reading and listening skills to preschool children. I wonder of he was capable of doing that? You’re the best.

    • Jennie says:

      That is so nice, Steve. Thank you! I wonder if Einstein could have done that. I watched a special on TV a zillion years ago with the scientist Carl Sagan teaching to a class of fifth graders. He was terrific. But preschoolers are a different ball of wax.

  10. Oh! What a way to start off a post. Albert Einstein’s witty quote. I actually read it for the first time. Fairy tales is something that I used to enjoy; but I cannot replace that ‘used to’ ’cause I simply can’t. But, I do agree that fairy tales bring some fancying power in the mind. Again, a well written post!

  11. “The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig” by Eugene Trivizas is a personal favourite as an ex teacher and current storyteller. I’m currently trying to weave fairy stories into a novel about contemporary UK schools, and the material is so rich, it’s what to leave out that’s the problem! Have you read Marina Warner: “Once upon a time”?

  12. ren says:

    And maybe, just maybe….fairy tales are really how life is meant to be. That is why kids relate so well, for they already live in the land of make believe.

    Perhaps, as more adults begin to ‘let their guard down’ and become more of the kid inside them, then we will discover for sure, that fairy tales are really how life is.
    Beautiful post as always, thank you… ren

  13. I’m just surprised that there aren’t more Fantasy and Horror writers in the world because of them!

    • Jennie says:

      Exactly! Think of the brothers Grimm. Those fairy tales alone could spark any horror writer. Have you ever read the original Cinderella? Yikes!

      • Oh yeah! Because of her I only have one pair of shoes and I keep them on…Plus I stay away from balls, princes, witches and pumpkin anything.

      • Jennie says:

        It was the stepmother chopping off the heel and toe of the stepdaughters, and the birds pecking out their eyeballs that did it for me. Close-flying birds and tight shoes are creepy.

  14. A really lovely post, Jennie. I love fairy tales and have told them to my children, my nieces and nephews and the children in my Sunday School.

  15. I completely agree with you about the importance of fairy tales. As a middle school teacher I use Beauty and the Beast with my 7th graders every year. There are so many powerful messages in fairy tales, and they are such an important cultural reference point. Also, I absolutely had the Jan Brett Goldilocks above growing up–thanks for bringing back memories!

    • Jennie says:

      Thank you, Rebecca. I’m glad you use fairy tales in your classroom, too. They are timeless and give teachers so many avenues of teaching. Glad it gave you good memories.

  16. Reblogged this on Notes from An Alien and commented:
    Impressively insightful re-blog today………

  17. dgkaye says:

    So wonderful to read about the children’s interpretation of fairy tales. Gives us more to think about. 🙂

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