Human beings have always used stories—both true and make-believe—to understand the world around them and connect with one another. Many of the fairytales we now read to our children have, in fact, played an essential role in shaping history—providing the foundation to form individuals, nations, and all of humanity. In addition to the important bonding purpose that storytime has, these tales we read together also ultimately help guide a child’s behaviour and ideology as they venture out into the world. Fairytales can provide the tools to understand social cues, overcome obstacles, and verbalise ideas and emotions.
An opportunity for discussion
For a child’s mind, listening to a fairy tale is like a travel experience. Every trip provides opportunities to learn something new and create new connections. At Readmio, we create our stories to be short, digestible and easy to talk about with kids. We believe that the discussion and questions that accompany storytime are an excellent opportunity to develop self-understanding, stimulate imagination, and allow children to explore potentially frightening or complex concepts in a safe and nurturing environment.
In order to fully benefit from this aspect of storytime, we’re taking a closer look at how the right questions can help you get even more out of the time you spend reading together—using one of the Brothers Grimm most well-known fairytales, “Hansel and Gretel,” or “The Gingerbread House” as an example.
A tale of desperation and cleverness
Since its publication more than 200 years ago, “Hansel and Gretel” has endured in popularity and occupied a prominent place in popular culture. The tale of Hansel and Gretel, or “The Gingerbread House,” was one of the first oral tales that the Brothers Grimm collected, and with its vivid imagery and enduring message, it is easy to see why it is still so beloved. Tales like this one, which includes a family’s children becoming lost after being driven to take extraordinary measures due to hunger, are believed to have been developed in the medieval period of the Great Famine—when hard times drove many families to very desperate measures.
This story covers difficult topics in a context that is both intriguing and relatable for young minds, making it an ideal springboard for discussion. Here are some ideas to get you started:
Put yourself in another’s shoes
One of the most valuable aspects of storytime is that it allows young people to imagine themselves in other situations, resulting in the development of empathy and understanding. “The Gingerbread House” centres around a family that is struggling and has to make difficult decisions as a result. While reading “The Gingerbread House” with your child, check in at various points to ask about the characters and their motivations:
- How do the children feel when they leave home?
- What was going through Hansel’s mind while he was stuck in the witch’s cage?
Explore broader societal concepts
The story of the two siblings also provides a chance to explore broader social topics and the potential outcomes they encounter. You can ask questions like:
- Why did the children venture into the woods in the first place?
- Why might they have been inclined to trust the lady at the gingerbread house?
A lesson to be learned from every fairytale
Of course, all fairytales leave us with a lesson and opportunity for reflection. Upon completing the story, you can talk to your child about what they took from the story and how it made them feel using questions like:
- Does the story remind you of any situations you’ve been in yourself?
- What do you think the siblings learned from their experience?
One of the best parts about reading aloud together is the opportunity it provides to develop curiosity and explore ideas together. Be sure to set some time aside when reading with your child to see where the discussion takes you. It’ll make the reading experience more interesting and engaging for both of you!