Read them fairy tales

Once upon a time, a mad king built a fabulous castle overlooking the one where he grew up. Hohenschwangau as seen from Neuschwanstein, Germany, August 2005

Once upon a time, a mad king built a fabulous castle overlooking the one where he grew up.
Hohenschwangau as seen from Neuschwanstein, Germany, August 2005

“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.” — attributed to Albert Einstein

I could not verify that the quote above actually came from Einstein, but countless sources verify his more famous statement that “imagination is more important than knowledge.” Although it’s often a difficult line to walk, with some of us leaning too far toward creativity and fantasy, and some too far toward empirical data and scientific methodology, we all need to recognize the value of both.

Since we can’t learn anything without paying attention, stories that engage and delight can painlessly teach vital lessons.  It’s tempting to see fun reading as an optional activity that is too easily put on the back burner.  Today, I hope you will think about allocating some time for imaginative reading, even if there are no children in your home to entertain with fun stories.  Reading for fun can be serious business.

This post was originally published seven years ago today. The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. These links to related posts, and their thumbnail photos, do not appear in the blog feed; they are only visible when viewing the individual posts by clicking on each one. I have no idea why, nor do I know how they choose the related posts. That’s just the way WordPress does things.


  1. I agree that imagination and creativity are so important, even more than knowledge, as we cannot apply knowledge to learn about this world without that spark of creativity which brings understanding and wisdom into our lives. Love your quote, “Reading for fun can be serious business.”.

    A while back I gathered together and posted these 70 Classic Story Books for Young People to Read and Enjoy:
    Most of the books have modern, larger font for easier reading, and these seven specifically contain fairy tales:
    – Fairy Tales Every Child Should Know
    – Folk Tales Every Child Should Know
    – Favorite Fables in Prose and Verse
    – Junior Classics Vol 1 – Fairy and Wonder Tales
    – My Book of Favorite Fairy Tales
    – Young Folks Library Vol 3, A Book of Famous Fairy Tales
    – Young Folks Treasury Vol 1, Childhood Favorites and Fairy Stories

    • Scott, welcome to the comments section, and thanks so much for sharing this wonderful resource. I think some of the most popular children’s books– the wonderful Harry Potter series springs to mind– borrow heavily from these classic stories. And of course, two masters of such literature, Tolkien and Lewis, were both professors of mythology at Oxford. I haven’t worked as a librarian for many years, and I’ve often wondered if the classic fairy and folk tales will continue to survive. There are numerous picture and chapter book adaptations of them, of course, but sometimes it might be beneficial to get closer to the earlier texts. Of course, many current versions of them have been “sanitized” to fit the increased sensitivity of our times. For example, the wolf rarely eats anyone and is then is cut open by the hunter, as happened in the Red Riding Hood tale I read as a child. Thanks again for sharing this link. I’ll look forward to exploring it in more detail.

  2. mike c.

    I heard something recently about Rudyard Kipling and the “Just so Stories”, which i am not that familiar with. But his daughter would say to him at the bedtime story hour- “read them just so,” and so they became the “just so stories.”
    My grandson at age 7 – my one and only grandson-is going through that gross stage that all boys do and so I am writing him a little tribute, which i hope he likes called, “The biggest Booger in the World.” Of course the re-writing is the hard part, even though it is only about 1000 words total. Not such an easy task -writing a kids book.

    • Yes, writing for children is actually much harder than writing for adults, if one hopes to do it well. Children’s picture books generally must be read aloud (usually repeatedly) by adults, so a great picture book must appeal to adults as well as children — all while avoiding the didactic cliches, tired stereotypes and hackneyed plot lines so common among those who think “I’ll write a children’s book because they are short and take a lot less time.”

      The last time I spent any time with Grady (last August) he too was going through that “gross” stage of reading. I am assuming your grandson likes Dav Pilkey and similar authors. One author who strikes a better balance, in my opinion, in appealing to boys without being so dependent on repugnant humor is Jon Scieszka. You might want to explore some of his writing.

  3. mike c.

    Daniel Defoe “journal of a plague year-1722.” about bubonic plaguein london.

    • Yes! Now that you mention it, I have come across a couple of references to this work in some of the COVID-themed essays I’ve read in the past couple of months. Maybe I should look for a copy of that work.

  4. mike c.

    This is hilarious because i had heard of the Captain Underpants series of books and when i goodlged the author there was a title Captain Underpants and the adventures of Sonic Booger Boy- which was the alternate title for my story “Booger Boy.” Hilarious. But honestly i had never heard of him.

    • Bathroom humor is apparently fairly universal. Dave Barry made a fortune, and endeared himself to a lot of people, by indulging in that level of comedy in hilarious writing that was, for the most part, written strictly for adults. He might be the first person ever to win a Pulitzer Prize for Commentary, who nonetheless routinely makes booger jokes. All joking aside, Barry is a genius. If you need a laugh, just read his most recent edition of his traditional Year in Review here. One can only wonder what this year’s review will be like. He can always find reasons to laugh.

  5. mike c.

    Actually i asked my son if John -Michael likes those “Captain Underpants ” books and he said, he JM gets too wound up reading those.

    • I’m not surprised. As a librarian, I don’t believe in censorship (even for little kids) but if those had been around when my kids were little, I undoubtedly would have done my best to distract them with other funny, but more substantive, tales. There are plenty of those too.

  6. mike c.

    I started Helen PreJean’s book “River of Fire.” A memoir of her life as a CSJ nun.

    • I bet it will be interesting. I read some articles by her while I was working at Incarnate Word. She seems to be an exceptional woman.

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