Sunday, March 1, 2009

Playdate vagaries

Today we hosted a large play date (12 people) at our house, mostly kids A.'s age (around 2 years). It was a bit of a bedlam, as to be expected. As for unexpected, that happened when I was reading children stories. The first few went ahead fine, but the with last one I hit a snag: a Russian children's classic Barmalei (by Chukovskiy). I forgot that many people don't read classic fairy tales to children, because they're afraid to traumatize them (or propagate outdated stereotypes). The story talks about a pirate and brigand who lives in Africa and eats children, the children cry, he doesn't relent, a crocodile eats him, he repents (inside the crocodile), the crocodile lets him out, and Barmalei is reformed. Millions of Russian children grew up on this story with no apparent ill effects.

It was particularly ironic to get evil eye from other parents at this particular author, as Chukovskiy wrote extensively about value of fairy tales in children's development and castigated 1930s (?) movement in USSR to abolish anything fantastical in children's literature so that they receive only what is educational and pragmatical.

Note to self, then: preview whatever I'm going to read to other children.

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