Maria Montessori believed that books should be as realistic as possible, without animals that talk, blue elephants that fly, and of course, without monsters, witches, or Baba Yaga (in Russian folklore, the fearsome witch with iron teeth.) Young children sometimes do not perceive a distinctive "line" between imagination and reality. Their nervous system is still maturing, and is thus vulnerable: they take in the environment as sponges, accepting it as is, without questioning, but rather trusting us -the parents and educators – with what is conveyed to them. So, what bed time stories are we to tell our children? What books are we to read?
Every night, before bed time, Julia, Adrian and I read together. We mostly read educational books like children's encyclopedias: we love "Kids First Big Book of …" Series by National Geographic. Adrian enjoys books about transport, nature, seasons, animals etc. Then, I realized, that I do not read them any fairy tales ("skazki"). So, I decided to start with the most popular, the least disturbing (in my opinion) Russian folk tale about Kolobok. It is a story about a little round bun that came alive, run away from Grand-Parents, and was almost eaten by a bunny, wolf, and a bear; and was finally eaten by a cunning fox.
Well, Adrian was petrified to fall asleep for almost a week! He would tremble every night when I would try to put him to sleep, saying that he is afraid that the bear will come and eat him. He barely slept those nights. So, during the day, we started to learn about bears: what they eat, habitat, looked at cute bear cubs and so forth. I tried to move away from the folk image and towards the reality as soon as possible. It worked, but it took few days for the damaging impression to keep subsiding.
This particular bear illustration is indeed scary (:
Let's look at other stories: The Wolf and The Seven Little Goats: poor goats get eaten alive by a wolf!
Hansel and Grettel, by the Brothers Grimm: the witch was feeding Hansel, preparing to eat him.
Red Riding Hood: I had to change the ending: the wolf became a vegetarian and eventually a friend:)
I am sure there are many wonderful folklore tales and fairy tales that are kind, non-violent and teach valuable lessons. I would love to hear your suggestions. In a mean time, we will stay "safe" with what we have been reading …
Julia loves reading "Cat in the Hat's" Learning Library books to her brother.
The books have simple intriguing riming content and are not too long for a 6-7 year old.
And these Mini Masters Books are beautiful first introduction to art books that Adrian enjoys.
What books are on your shelves? Please, comment, I always read:)