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Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Scaring Children? I'm all for it!

I made this: Avid Reader at 8:00 am
A regular Leeds Book Club member (and current @PeopleOfLeeds!) lent me Dark Season - a young adults book written by Russell T Davies (the man responsible for bringing us the revived Doctor Who in 2005!).

Released concurrently with a 6 part TV series, this book consists of two interlinked stories - featuring three young teenagers battling evil dominating and insidious...grown ups!


(Did you spot the oh-so-very young Kate Winslet?)


Now, it was a quick and very enjoyable read - I finished it in one sitting with two (rather large I grant you) mugs of coffee. I looked forward to returning it to my mate, knowing we'd have a good natter about links between it and the tales of the Timelord.

And that would have been that. 

Except there was this piece on one of the breakfast shows this morning (possibly yesterday depending on when I post this!) about a recent study showing that parents are shunning fairy tales in favour of more modern tales; deeming them too scary for children.*

Apparently one in five sets of the polled parents would rather read more modern fare to their sproggits - such as the Hungry Caterpillar or the Gruffalo. One third of those polled had children burst into tears after having Red Riding Hood read to them (they should have tried the Roald Dahl version). Parents - according to this study - didn't want to have to explain particular concepts, or have their children exposed to anything that might stimulate rather than soothe them. 
 
Dark Seasons - while not written for a particularly young audience - would almost certainly NOT be deemed suitable. Our protagonists are in danger throughout the novel - both mentally and physically, having to make decisions with long reaching consequences.

Taking a closer look at the fairy tales, I suppose I can sort of see where they are coming from - Goldilocks is a thief and squatter chased away by her victims; Rumpelstiltskin threatens to kidnap a future offspring; Jack abandons his family to climb a Beanstalk resulting in his murdering a giant in cold blood; Cinderella provides slave labour for her extended family.

I could continue, but I'm sure you See where I'm going with this!

Now, I'm not saying that there's anything wrong with gentle, fun and imaginative stories, designed to soothe a young child into sleep. Or that it isn't a parent's right to protect their young un's for as long as possible. Of course it's up to mum and dad whether their specific child is emotionally ready to have these tales read to them. No one has the right to DEMAND that particular tales be read.


However, I would point out that fairy tales have been around for hundreds of years; told to a dozen generations of children and ...you know...look around. The vast majority of us have turned out just fine.

Sure, some of these tales have definitely fallen out of favour (All Fur by the Brothers Grimm for example - dealing with a daughter fleeing an incestuous father)or changed to fit more modern audiences and their expectations (the feminist fairy tales and politically correct tales my parents procured for me just LEAP to mind) or utterly changed to fit a particular corporate identity (Hello Disney's Little Mermaid).

However, the point of fairy tales is that they demonstrate that life is full of adversity; that good will eventually overcome evil; that many of life's greatest challenges can be best tackled with just a touch of common sense. They are for many children, the second (after mum and dad) moral base to cling too. It is from our parents that we learn - even at a very young age - how to respond to the world around us.


Children are often far tougher cookies than we grown ups (*ahem*) give them credit for. They need to be just to survive other children! However to allow them to take on life challenges and emerge as confident, well adjusted youngsters/teens/adults, parents need to set the tone - if a child finds a story scary perhaps an explanation, a bit of a cuddle and the realisation that they are protected and loved, even when bad things do happen will better prepare them adequately and appropriately for the next stage in their lives..

The Guardian have a hilarious post on this topic here.

This study was organised by Watch (a TV channel) as part of promotion for new show 'Grimm' - an adult look at fairy tales - as part of their promotion for the show over here.

Find the trailer below!


*Now the study didn’t actually specify too many details – for example the ages of the children’s, but still, it set the old neurons blazing, resulting in this piece! 

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