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The Surprising Origins of ‘Puss In Boots’

September 14, 2021 Posted by General 0 thoughts on “The Surprising Origins of ‘Puss In Boots’”

Fairytales are told in almost every society, all around the world. And yet, despite their universality and ability to inspire generations young and old, they often fail to fit neatly into any one mode of storytelling.

The only unifying characteristics that fairytales have are that they are usually relatively short and feature ‘fantasy’ characters, such as dwarves, elves, fairies, giants, gnomes, goblins, mermaids, trolls or witches, and often some element of magic or enchantments. Fairytales may also be distinguished from other folk narratives such as legends and explicitly moral tales, including fables or those of a religious nature, because they don’t necessarily always have a clear lesson. The fact that their meaning is not always expressly clear or easy to pin down is part of what makes fairytales so fascinating to read together and such a valuable starting point for imagination and curiosity. 

In order to get a better sense of the context from which these tales arose, we will be looking at the surprising origins of some of the most beloved fairytales in our collection—beginning with ‘Puss in Boots.’

Of the first classic fairytale collection

Despite enjoying a recent increase in popularity, thanks to its inclusion in the Shrek franchise and subsequent spinoff, ‘Puss in Boots’ is actually one of the oldest fairytales of all. A classic example of the fairytale featuring the animal as a helper ‘Puss in Boots’ happened in 1697 when Charles Perrault included it in his collection of fairy stories. 

Even at that point, though, the tale of a resourceful speaking cat had already been around for over a hundred and fifty years. It can originally be traced back to The Facetious Nights, a two-volume collection of 75 stories by Italian author and fairy-tale collector Giovanni Francesco Straparola, which was published in the early 1550s. 

Story overview

The story begins with the sudden death of a miller, and the subsequent uneven distribution of his belongings among his three sons. The eldest receives the mill, the middle son the donkey, and the youngest receives the family cat, who had thus far been kept around only to take care of mice. 

Fortunately for the youngest son, though, he soon discovers that this is not your average feline. Once he realizes that he has a magic cat who is able to speak, he is quick to provide him with the boots his cat requests. Upon being properly outfitted, the cat sets out to make his master’s fortune through a series of clever ruses. Plenty of mischief and cunning ensues, and after a sequence of the puss’s successful tricks, including an elaborate scheme to fool the king, the miller’s son ends up assuming the title of Marquis and being offered a princess’s hand in marriage. 

Is ‘Puss in Boots’ a trickster tale?

Although everyone can likely agree that there is something inherently intriguing about a talking cat in boots, there is less consensus when it comes to determining the story’s meaning. How we should analyse ‘Puss in Boots’ has troubled many writers and critics over the years. Although the story of ‘Puss in Boots’ contains several classic features of fairy tales, including the enterprising helper, the beautiful princess, and the ‘rags to riches’ trope of a character from humble beginnings advancing to become part of the nobility—there doesn’t seem to be a clear lesson contained in the story’s events. 

In some analysis, ‘Puss in Boots’ is presented as a trickster tale since puss begins tricking those in more powerful positions and forcing those beneath him to do his bidding with bribes or menaces. However, he escapes retribution—there is no point at which his cleverness turns back against him, as is often the case with trickster tales. 

How should we interpret the story?

So if puss never has to answer for his misdeeds, what (if any) is the moral of the story? As mentioned above, one of the differentiating aspects of fairytales from fables or religious stories is that there is often no clear moral, leaving the tale more open to interpretation. Although one could plausibly argue that the ‘moral’ of ‘Puss in Boots’ seems to be that it pays off to lie, cheat, threaten—that’s only one way to look at it. 

On the other hand, we could view puss as a creature who makes the best of his (and his master’s) lousy lot in life. He is simply doing everything in his power to improve the situation of his disenfranchised master. The story is written explicitly to allow the reader to take their own lessons from the story – for example that knowledge, and being quick thinking can help you succeed in life.

What about the boots?

Although the morality of ‘Puss in Boots’ may not be easy to pin down, it does include revealing socio-historical cues that can be interesting to note from a modern perspective. The fact that the Puss has boots, for example, should not be overlooked. 

When the story was written, attaining a pair of shoes was an essential step in climbing the social ladder. Children outgrew shoes so quickly that they were a luxury afforded only to young persons of the very upper class. Therefore, getting a pair of shoes marked a critical time in a person’s life when they were growing up and filling a role in society. If an adult did not manage to get a pair of shoes, though, they might be looked down on as a result. And the fact that a cat got an audience with the king simply for being well dressed and having boots, shows how much appearances and presentation mattered. 

We tend to think that our society is overly focused on appearances now, but ‘Puss in Boots’ tells us something about the role they have always played. The story illustrates that society’s standards for appearance have always played a very important role in people’s lives. And even though you should not judge a book by its cover, people will still judge you based on your looks and actions – a point well-worth discussing with your child as you read.

Questions to Ask Your Child While Reading Together

August 23, 2021 Posted by General 0 thoughts on “Questions to Ask Your Child While Reading Together”

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!

Why Reading Is So Important in the First Five Years

July 1, 2021 Posted by General 0 thoughts on “Why Reading Is So Important in the First Five Years”


Reading to a child offers an astonishing array of benefits. From providing comfort and encouragement, confidence and security, to offering relaxation, joy, and entertainment—the power of storytime is tremendous. When you give a child your time and full attention while reading to them, it lets them know that they matter and that they are in a safe space to explore new ideas, thoughts, and feelings. It builds self-esteem, vocabulary, nourishes the imagination, and ultimately gives them the tools they need to understand the world around them.

It is never too early to start a child’s reading journey, either. So much happens in the first five years of life. From learning to walk and talk to think and feel—these are the years that will provide the foundation for how a child learns and develops throughout the rest of their life. In addition, young children are incredibly hungry for growth, experience, and narratives to help them make connections between themselves and others. Reading a child fairytales and stories satisfies all of these appetites while also establishing a strong parental bond. 

The years before five last the rest of their life


Every year of a child’s life is precious, but the importance of the first five cannot be overstated. It is during this critical period when a collection of pivotal experiences will ultimately help shape the person they are going to be. This is when they acquire the ability to comprehend appropriate behaviour, boundaries, empathy, and many other critical social skills that will remain with them for life.

Crucially, these skills and behaviours are best learned through thoughtful and consistent human interaction. Despite the many ways that technology has enhanced our lives and made them easier, there is no substitute for the reassuring presence of a parent or guardian to help steer a child through these decisive years. 

A variety of recent studies have outlined significant changes in language development and social skills of school-age children — and it’s thought to be the result of changes in early childhood experiences. With more busy parents relying on technology to educate and entertain their children, younger learners miss out on the direct human connection that is so critical to this stage of development. Being able to solve a complex game on a screen might activate one part of the brain, but it is no substitute for the vast array of processes that are simultaneously unfolding during storytime. With that in mind, let’s explore some of the many ways that reading out loud together helps your child grow: 



If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.

– Albert Einstein


Cognitive development 


When you read aloud to your child, the content of the stories you share provides them with the material needed to start building a framework for all the new things they see, hear, and, eventually, read. This exposure to tales from other times, places, and cultures provides necessary background knowledge and helps them bridge the content of the story with their own young lives. 

You’re helping them build and reinforce pathways in the brain, and the time you invest will have immediate and lasting effects. Studies have found that the frequency of reading to children at a young age directly impacts their schooling outcomes—regardless of family background and home environment. It improves their performance not only in language and literacy but also numeracy and overall cognition.

Expanded vocabulary


Reading also helps to dramatically expand the number and variety of words that children can understand and use. Without the addition of fairy tales and stories, the words that children are exposed to in day-to-day life and communication are relatively repetitious. While reading a story, though, you might end up using more specific names for different plants and animals, or descriptive words that they have never heard before. All of these little stepping stones add up. One 2019 study estimated that children who are regularly read to in the five years leading up to kindergarten are exposed to 1.4 million more words than children who are not.

Self-confidence 


Mental health has been the subject of increasing focus in recent years, and experts are realising that the foundation of overall wellness starts very young. When small children are read to, their creativity and curiosity are stimulated, and they become excited about taking on different roles and responsibilities. This role-play behaviour becomes very important as children grow, helping them develop empathy, problem-solving and morality. These are all characteristics needed to produce well-adjusted young people who are able to deal with life’s challenges and exert their independence. By establishing a reading routine with your child, you’re helping to promote maturity and discipline while nurturing their self-confidence and giving them the inspiration they need to find and pursue their passions. 

Not to mention, by allowing your child to discover the power of reading in a safe and loving setting, you alleviate any pressure or anxiety they may experience in their future classroom. Reading with children early on ensures they will become competent and confident at it before having to do it in front of others.

Creativity


When it comes to nurturing the creative spirit that each of us is born with, books and stories open up a whole new world to your child. Fairy tales and fiction, in particular, are vital in their capacity to stimulate young minds to journey beyond the world around them. By drawing on elements of fantasy and folklore, these stories get kids thinking outside the box and feed their natural curiosity. By exposing your child to a broader range of ideas and narratives, you’re not only helping to fuel their emerging interests—you’re also fostering emotional health and giving them the tools that will be important to create meaningful connections later in life.

Life lessons


Stories also supply an ideal gateway into discussing real-world situations in age-appropriate ways. Young kids especially enjoy stories that feature children their own ages in situations they themselves have not experienced. Besides modeling what happens in these various cases, reading about a variety of topics lets children know they are not alone when they deal with something new. The stories you share gives them a framework to understand how other young people dealt with the challenges and surprises they encountered, and provides a comfortable way to introduce difficult or complex topics. For example, Cinderella teaches the importance of standing up for oneself, The Three Little Pigs illustrates the value of hard work and dedication, and Little Red Riding Hood serves as a reminder that it’s necessary to carefully consider situations and people before acting. 



Bonding


It goes without saying that reading to your young child regularly can help you forge a stronger relationship with them. By establishing a regular reading routine, you’re providing your child with the anticipation and satisfaction of an ongoing shared event. Through the act of shared reading, your child will develop trust and expect that you will be there for them. The feeling of intimacy that comes from reading together helps your child feel close to you, and these feelings of love and attention encourage positive growth and development.

It is never too early to start reading together


With so many benefits to be had, there is really no time like the present to start reading to your child. Babies, toddlers, preschoolers, and even older children all benefit from having a caregiver read to them. You don’t even need an extensive personal library of books to get started, either. At Readmio, we’ve made it our mission to help families spend time together. With voice-triggered sounds and music to enhance the stories, our application makes storytime even more fun for you and your child. 



References:

  1. https://www.education.vic.gov.au/documents/about/research/readtoyoungchild.pdf
  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30908424/
  3. https://childmind.org/article/4-small-ways-to-build-confidence-in-kids/
  4. https://www.pbs.org/wholechild/providers/play.html



     




Readmio goes to the world!

January 1, 2021 Posted by General 0 thoughts on “Readmio goes to the world!”

We have just launched the Readmio globally! After a long time and a lot of effort, we have finally done the long-awaited step.

It was an excellent year for Readmio, and many things have been accomplished. Here is a summary of it:

  • We finished developing several core features of the app, like push notifications, badges, and the premium version of the app.
  • We successfully raised seed capital to be able to scale and go international.
  • We finished the English version of all the stories and started working on the German translation.
  • The Readmio team is almost complete, and all the processes work smoothly.
  • We attracted more than 70.000 users with minimal spending on marketing.
  • Readmio also won 3rd place in the CzechInvest Startup Challenge 2020.

We are excited to see what the 2021 will bring.

Happy new year

-Readmio team

The journey

May 1, 2020 Posted by General 0 thoughts on “The journey”

After long time, we are almost ready to release our read aloud books app for iOS and Android. We all hope that we created something, which people will love.
(more…)

Why storytelling

February 21, 2020 Posted by General 0 thoughts on “Why storytelling”

Why do fairytales have a great significance? Marek Herman, a recognised psychologist answers. (more…)

Our mission

February 20, 2020 Posted by General 0 thoughts on “Our mission”

We all live in a hectic world and there is less and less time for our kids and family. (more…)