Once upon a time there were lots of children who needed and wanted to learn English, but their parents didn’t know how or when.
Who has never read or watched a fairy tale, or learned words and sentences though fairy tales, like the popular opening ‘Once upon a time…’? Stories are definitely an engaging and entertaining way to acquire knowledge and develop language skills. Most English coursebooks contain stories, anecdotes, and short articles to make the learning process more fun. So let’s add fairy tales to this wonderful world of language acquisition.
A quotation attributed to Einstein says: “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”. Well, Einstein had one of the most brilliant minds in history. Based on this, do you think he was exposed to fairy tales? I bet he was, and to many!
Children love reading and watching fairy tales. Actually, I guess that even us adults love them, so why not add some magic, romantic, and exciting elements to learning English, or any other language, through fairy tales? Language practice doesn’t necessarily have to be done only through grammar and vocabulary exercises. There’s much more than that to be explored, and with fairy tales there’s no age limit. You can start whenever you want.
Most children are familiar with some fairy tales as they have been translated into many languages, so reading or watching familiar tales in English will not be as difficult to understand as it may seem. It is important, of course, to choose one the children have already been exposed to in their mother language. This will provide them with a safe environment and context, and they won’t get frustrated by not understanding a word or phrase. One good example of a well-known story for Slovak children is Cinderella. Slovak children already know Popoluška, a Russian version of Cinderella, so when reading the story in English to your children, they will automatically connect it to Popoluška and understanding the fairy tale as a whole will be easy.
When a child starts learning English it is essential that this is done in an engaging and motivating way. Most children like reading, watching, or listening to stories as that’s a way to explore their imagination and the world around them. Fairy tales provide children with all the necessary elements to get and keep them enthusiastic about a story. They learn more and more words as they get interested in the story.
I’m sure you remember many fairy tales. Maybe not the details but what they are about, and are able to retell most parts of them, even if you have not touched a fairy tale book in ages. This is because you were most likely happy and excited when someone read you one, or when you were able to read one yourself. This is also proof that fairy tales live in our minds for a long time, if not forever.
Fairy tales, like many other books, can be read at different levels. There is something called graded readers, which are books designed for language learners. There are many levels to choose from starters to advanced, the story using selected vocabulary to make reading easy and enjoyable. When it comes to movies, well, that’s a different story. Most movies are not made for language learners but having read the story before definitely helps with understanding a movie.
Here are some tips on telling fairy tales to your children
- Play with voices, pauses, and body language to create a magical atmosphere, and catch your children’s attention.
- Use masks or finger puppets to bring the story to life.
- Choose a level-appropriate and familiar fairy tale. This will make the language acquisition process easier.
- Involve your children in the story. Get them to do voices or repeat words and sentences with you.
We hope this article was helpful and has inspired you to read a fairy tale to your children in English. Hopefully they will learn happily ever after.
Here are some links to websites where you can find fairy tales in English:
And some online easy fairy tales:
The author: Luis Patrocínio