They teach through repetition:
Fairy tales like “The Three Little Pigs” and “Goldilocks” often contain key phrases (think “I’ll huff and I’ll puff and I’ll blow your house down!”) that appear over and over. Such refrains can help new readers become familiar with how words look on the page and make connections between how they look and how they sound, says Tricia Eickelberg, director of early childhood programs and Chilton House librarian at The Elisabeth Morrow School in New Jersey.
Retellings offer a new way of seeing:
Reading different versions of a single fairy tale provides something new while reinforcing what kids have already learned from the original. For example, The Wolf’s Story: What Really Happened to Little Red Riding Hood is told from the wolf’s perspective, leaving readers second-guessing whether the wolf is really the bad guy. An alternate ending to a classic story is a great way to introduce the importance of point-of-view!
They're a gateway to new cultures:
Choosing fairy tales from around the world helps kids appreciate others’ customs and value systems. Looking at culture-specific character, setting, or plot differences within the stories can also be a valuable learning tool, Eickelberg adds, because it can improve comprehension and vocabulary.
Goldilocks and The Three Bears: Touch & Feel
Simple language, adorable art, and explorable textures make this series perfect for baby’s bedtime. Make Believe Ideas, $10. Ages birth to 3.
The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales by Jon Scieszka
This collection turns traditional stories on their heads with silly humor and an innovative approach to book design (watch out for the falling table of contents!). Penguin, $18. Ages 4 and up.
The Snow Queen Retold by Sarah Lows
A stunning edition illustrated with dioramas. Great for older kids who can appreciate the artwork and the story. Audio CD included. Barefoot Books, $18. Ages 9 and up.