Stories for Free Children is one of the best collection of short stories, fairy tales, and fables I’ve ever come across for children. It emphasizes non-sexist, multi-racial and multicultural themes, but in a natural, non-preachy or judgmental way.
Compiled from the features in Ms. Magazine from 1972-1982, the book is divided into three sections: “Fables and Fairy Tales for Everyday Life”, “Famous Women, Found Women” and “Fun, Facts and Feelings.” In the first section you’ll “find stories that both escape the bounds of the here and now and help children cope with their own here and now with fresh insight”. In the second, stories introduce the reader to female heros both known and “almost anonymous.” The last section “deals with everyday reality, the people children know, the circumstances of their lives, the problems they face, and what they think and feel about it.”
Thus far my favorite story is “The Princess Who Stood on Her Own Two Feet.” I love the fact that instead of being riddled with “passive princesses” and “ugly stepmothers” the intelligent, talented, and witty princess is faced with a dilemma I believe many young girls face today: change who she is in order to win a boy’s favor. If more stories would promote being authentic over conformity there would be a hell of a lot less sexting going on in schools. (Check out this great documentary: Sext Up Kids-How Children are Becoming Hypersexualized if you’re interested in affecting your kids’ behavior before it is too late. Although, you may need to start in infancy: Sexting: Girls as young as seven in explicit videos online.)
While Stories for Free Children is a little dated, (“One Father, Two Fathers” is not about a gay couple as I originally anticipated, but rather about a child whose parents remarry and she ends up with two dads), I really enjoy reading these short stories aloud to Faye and believe the messages they convey will leave a lasting and good impression upon her as she grows.