Fairytale Basics: Red Riding Hood

I’m going to be writing a series of posts about fairytales, nursery rhymes and fables. The reason for this is that the teachers in the 3rd grade rooms have noticed a considerable lack of knowledge of what most Americans would consider the “basics”. You can’t expect students to compare and contrast a modern story to fairytales they’re unfamiliar with. And we’re not talking obscure ones; it’s the ones most of us grew up with. Often if the kids do know the story, they know the happy-smiling-Bird-singing Disney version. So, I came up with a plan to help.

The plan is pretty simple. Introduce the basic stories in 1st grade (usually not the full original gory versions), then reinforce with a fun version. The next year they will hear another story that expands on or parodies the original. And in 3rd grade, we can with read a fractured version or if possible, the oldest most detailed one I can find.

So today I’ll share with you the first in our experimental plan: Red Riding Hood.

James Marshall’s many fairytale retellings are illustrated in funny ways (there were 9 cats in Red Riding Hood’s kitchen and they all looked like they were up to no good), but they tell the basic story. Now my 1st graders were sure they knew this story but most were outraged that the wolf eats Red in this version….hmmmm, maybe they don’t know it as well as they think.

Since the first book was pretty short, I followed it up with Corey Rosen Schwartz’s retelling. The wolf earns a black belt, sure it will make it easier to prey on the weak, but wouldn’t you know, Red has a black belt too. This is part of a series that includes the Three Little Pigs and Hansel & Gretel (so we will talk about them later.)

My 2nd graders loved Diane and Christyan Fox’s book. The cat (who I think is a library teacher in disguise) attempts to read the story of Little Red Riding Hood to the dog, who asks A LOT of questions. Granted, they make sense, which makes it even funnier, but I truly empathize with the cat as it loses its patience.

In 3rd grade, the kids got to watch the Scholastic DVD if Ed Young’s Lon Po Po.

I chose the video because it presents the illustrations (that won the Caldecott) beautifully, and I like the actor’s voices. The kids liked it a lot but were surprised that it wasn’t more like the European version they are used to. It even reminded us of The Three Little Pigs a little.

Those are the versions I plan to use, but I also put out multiple versions of the story -and quite a few other tales- mixing them with chapter books, picture books, graphic novels and middle grade novels.

Not sure why this one appeals? Look at the artwork! Sybille Schenker’s paper it’s are breathtaking!


5 thoughts on “Fairytale Basics: Red Riding Hood

    1. I agree that they would almost never pass the strict guidelines we follow in today’s world. I wish our curriculum requirements would reflect that. Either it’s too graphic for our politically correct society or it’s important to understand how these stories form a foundation for us culturally. We can’t have both, but that is how we are teaching in American schools today. Thankfully, there are softer, less scary versions to begin with.

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