Who’s afraid of the big bad wolf? How about the evil queen?
I was afraid of both. As a kid, I stood up during the movie version of Snow White and, at the top of my lungs, begged the title character not to eat the poisoned apple. I was devastated when she didn’t listen to me.
Two of my three children are just like I was. They do not enjoy Grimm’s fairy tales, and they’re having a hard time finishing the Harry Potter series. Voldemort’s tricks are far worse than anything the evil queen ever did.
Normally, I wouldn’t strongly encourage my girls to read a novel that scares them, but Harry Potter is an exception. How are they going to communicate with their peers if they don’t know what Hogwarts is? They need to read the series for cultural literacy. They also need to read it to face their fears.
According to psychologist Emma Kenny, as quoted in a recent Guardian article, being frightened by fictional experiences helps children “forge resilience”:
When you are reading a scary story to a child, or they’re reading to themselves, the child has got a level of control – they can put it down, or ask you to stop. And the story can raise a discussion, in which they can explore and explain the way they feel about a situation.
I read the first book in the series, Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone, to my twins two years ago. Now, reading on their own, one is in the middle of the fourth book, The Goblet of Fire, while the other is in the middle of the second, The Chamber of Secrets.
So far, most of their conversations have focused on how scary the books are, but they’re definitely mesmerized by the wizarding world. Last weekend, I overheard the following conversation:
S: “I want to be in Ravenclaw. How about you?”
M: “Ravenclaw too, but do you think mom will tell the sorting hat to separate us?”*
S: “I don’t think the sorting hat cares what she thinks.”
Ha. Well, Ravenclaw is probably a good option for them. They don’t have the courage required for Gryffindor. Not yet.
*We’ve separated our twins into different classrooms since they were two. We agonized over the decision. For more on this topic, see A Controversial Parenting Decision: Separating Twins in School and Boo: The Things Parents Don’t Know Are Often The Most Important.