I have rewritten quite a few stories and nursery rhymes for Little P at this stage. She got a collection of classic fairy tales as a present (not necessarily my choice!) and she was very taken with the pictures. So, in my version Little Red Riding Hood gives the wolf some berries she collected in the wood so he won’t be hungry anymore. In the Three Little Pigs they have a party with the wolf in the house of bricks. And in the Billy Goats Gruff the troll guides all the goats to the field with the sweetest grass!
It’s not just classics I feel the need to censor. In my version of The Gruffalo the mouse is delighted to finally see him and brings the Gruffalo through the forest to make friends with fox etc. (sorry Julia Donaldson). My family think I’m crazy. ‘But it’s just a story’ they say. ‘It’s only make believe’ they object. But I think that young children learn about the world through their play and make believe. So if they are constantly fed stories filled with conflict, aggression, fear and violence won’t they start to believe that this is the norm? Back in the 1800s when Grimm and their contemporaries were writing children’s stories the world was a very dangerous place for small children. If they wandered outside their village they literally could have been eaten. Stories like these were written as warnings to try and prevent children from straying too far from home. Of course the world is still a very dangerous place full of conflict, aggression and violence. But I for one don’t want my daughter to believe that this is the norm. She will learn in time that people do bad things but this is the exception rather than the rule. And surely we have better ways of protecting children now rather than scaring the living daylights out of them!
I want Little P to see a world of opportunity, adventure, excitement, humanity and fun. But funny stories about big bad wolves and owl ice cream are fun for children I hear you cry! Or maybe they’re are just the things that WE think children will find fun because they are the kind of stories that may have been read to us as children. The truth is that children find fun and laughter where they see us finding fun and laughter. So a story about funny words, a topsy turvy world or messy stuff is fun. Violence is just not needed. It’s a hangover from the ancient childrens ‘classics’ and time to leave it behind now. Much better to read our children tales of endeavour, co-operation, adventure and kindness. These are the stories that will develop them into an inspiring generation.