The power of sharing fairy tales with children

Published on: 19 June 2024

Aya and the Star Chaser author Radiya Hafiza discusses why fairy tales from all over the world are important to share with children.

A photo of Radiya Hafiza and the front cover of Aya and the Star Chaser

Fairy tales are enchanting stories traditionally made for children, from tales as old as time to modern retellings of classical stories we all know and love. For many of us, fairy tales were our first introduction to reading, opening us up to a world of wonder and magic.

The fables were often seen as bedtime stories, or cautionary tales, with a moral lesson wrapped up in a display of good vs evil, heroes vs villains, teeming with fantastical creatures from monsters to mermaids and wicked witches to fairy godmothers. These stories have the ability to bewitch readers and take them on a journey to faraway lands, where anything is possible.

The benefits of fairy tales

When we are young, the possibilities of what we can do and what life can be are endless. Imagination knows no bounds and it is precisely this infinite arena of make-believe that is important for inspiring young readers.

We know that reading increases empathy, a unique gift that comes from venturing into a story where you can walk alongside someone else as they make their journey through a particular moment in time.

The importance of representation

But the gift of representation cannot be understated for children – or adults – either.

There are fantastical fairy tales from all over the world that offer glimpses into other times, people, places. Not only does reading empower children with more knowledge of the world around them, but stories with diverse backgrounds and identities foster inclusion and creativity, allowing children to feel seen, heard and, above all, be celebrated.

It is this act of celebration that I try to capture in my novels, from Eid balls and cultural festivals in the Rumaysa series to paying homage to the delicious array of Bengali food I grew up eating in Aya and the Star Chaser.

Up until a few years ago, diverse fairy tales in the UK were a novelty, with retellings rooted mainly in western-centric narratives. But as the publishing landscape continues to evolve, we are finally seeing more fairy tales with children from all types of backgrounds and identities at the forefront.

By recreating fairy tales for children with diverse characters and global settings, we can inspire children to believe they can be the hero of any story they want to be.

The lessons of fairy tales

Fairy tales are timeless, magical, hopeful. They teach children that through adversity strength can be found, that happy endings are ours to make and that we all have the power to decide who we want to be in the world.

Stories offer us spaces to explore ourselves, to form relationships with characters we may not have otherwise come across in our own lives, all the while allowing us to travel on an incredible journey.

Aya and the Star Chaser by Radiya Hafiza is out now.

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