The multiple benefits of bedtime stories have long been in the limelight. Not only do these promote strong parent-child bonds, but they also have a positive impact on the cognitive development of the child. While reading is akin to a tree that bears sweet fruits, reading something productive is a matter of grave concern too. For instance, girls are mostly handed fairy tales, but do these really make up for healthy reading content?
Childhood stories tend to ingrain deeply in our minds, and at some stage of life these always come back to us. Isn’t that the reason why we read stories with morals? The gist of these stories always stays subconsciously with us, growing as tiny seeds, shaping our expectations and a lot more than we can comprehend.
While moral-yielding stories are healthy snacks for our character development, I feel that fairy tales are the junk food of the reading shelves: additive but poor quality meals. The master reason behind this is that there is really nothing that we learn from them except for some gibberish set of ideals and expectations. Here’s what I mean:
The Promotion of Perfection
Do you remember Cinderella being fat? Or Snow White being dark skin-toned? Or Sleeping Beauty with a zit? No, not really. The standards of beauty set in these fairy tales are sickeningly high. To make things worse, the princes of these stories always look picture perfect too. So is that really real?
Such beauty descriptions are not a reflection of reality — rather a mirror into the soul that just wants to see central characters having the fairest complexions, the darkest of hair, and the rosiest cheeks. If children are taught to idealize such beauty benchmarks, they would only grow into self-conscious teenagers, worrying about looking their best so that they can attract a prince charming.
The Cliché of Happy Endings
There is no denying that fairy tales revolve around a girl, regardless of her origin, meeting a boy, one way or the other, and ending up married to him after falling deeply in love with him. The next thing you know, it’s a happy-ever-after. Mind if I ask: Is marriage the solution to all problems in the world? Is marriage a magical potion that, once consumed, would take you into a phase that exhibits no problems at all?
Isn’t this fairy-tale mindset a bit too convenient, and doesn’t it portray life as a sweet slice of chocolate lava cake with caramel topping instead of periodic bitter sips? I bet we wouldn’t want us growing with a simplified picture of life as is shown in the storybooks.
Also, happy endings are not all about finding the perfect man and living happily-ever-after with him. This changes the very definition of happy endings, so we need to break free from this cliché of happy endings that are not limited to finding a prince but have far wider borders, like an adventurous teenager or settling with a stable career, for instance.
Shallow Scale of Expectations
Fairy-tale plots set a shallow scale of expectations from life because what is ultimately expected is a knight in shining armor. Sleeping Beauty needed a guy to wake her up, Cinderella needed a prince charming to save her from her cruel step-family, Rapunzel also needed a dude to escape from her tower, and so on goes the list. By reading such stories, girls end up expecting that “true love” is the only “true ambition” in life and that the love of one’s life will eventually emerge from some corner. What we need are more heroines like Pocahontas, who are the lead heroes of their own life and caretakers of their own selves, determining their own paths to fulfilling their dreams and passions.
Additionally, these stories always end up making boys synonymous with heroism when, in truth, everyone is a hero in their life. We really need to understand that girls shouldn’t be raised up reading fairy tales only. There are plenty of other stories that can teach them better and can polish their expectations well; those are the kind of books kids need to read more.