Tuesday, 29 March 2011


usually, children aged 7 to 11 but I did spend nearly three years teaching 5 year olds
I have worked with children who were in danger of, or who had been, permanently excluded from main stream schools
of a son with autism who lacks empathy and a daughter who struggled when others were less than kind in their treatment of her brother
I read a lot - between three and six books a week (Ken Follett slowed the normal rate of reading) 
Wanna-be writer
As one who has no desire to alienate any writer, publisher, agent or app designer already employed in this profession, I have thought long and hard before deciding to write the blog post.

I feel this is a subject that should be discussed.What follows is a long preamble but there is a point, somewhere near the end:

Our youngest children study the story of the Three Little Pigs. The story teaches the nursery age child – in a most enjoyable and dramatic form – that planning and foresight combined with hard work will help us overcome even a most ferocious predator.
The Three Little Pigs provides opportunities for children to think about the importance of respecting the belongings of others and of being kind. By exposure to the story they can develop an awareness of the importance of the home, for people and animals – warmth, security and survival.
For language arts the activities highlight retelling or narration of the story, comprehension of the plot: cause and effect, and basic grammar topics including contractions and verb tenses.
The story can be used to reinforce math concepts including ordinal numbers (first, second, third, etc.) and telling time to the hour. 
Most teachers already use the story of the three little pigs for scientific study – science and engineering: applied physics and the foreshadowing of chemistry - when children are encouraged to investigate the properties of the materials used for the houses. Food chains showing the interdependence of elements within the habitats: producers, prey and predators; including the difference between eating to fulfil their needs and devouring due to greed.

History is featured when the development of human habitations in highlighted: from a lean-to shack to a wooden house, finally to a house of solid brick.

Psychology gets a look in because the pigs' actions show progress from the dominated personality to the superego-influenced but essentially ego-controlled personality. ;) Only the third pig postpones play, and predicts what may happen in the future if he doesn’t work hard first.

Grief is often touched upon during the study of the book because even in their celebration of the third pig’s victory, children are aware that other members of the pig’s family were not so fortunate. In most versions of the traditional story the first and second pig remain dead as a result of the wolf’s actions. Then, for the religiously minded, there are the versions where the pigs get to rise again.

Crime, and appropriate punishments, can be a natural thought to consider after reading this text: this is one of the first instances where pre-schoolers are taught about the acceptable face of capital punishment.

The wild and destructive wolf stands for all great anti-social threats - this story shows the predator approach and attempt to groom, seduce and to trap the unwary.

In the primitive sense of justice – the simplistic, child’s view of justice - those who have done something really bad should be punished. The wolf is a bad animal, because it wants to destroy. Children can identify their own worst excesses in the wolf's behaviour and some show anxiety about possibly suffering such a fate. Smart teachers ask children to contribute alternative behaviours for the wolf at various points in the story. They enable the children to find constructive and active behaviour modification for him.

My Dad told us this story, when we were small. I remember trying to prevent him blowing down the house. My hand and my mind both remember the feeling of Dad’s wet lips and nipping teeth when I tried to block his mouth to protect the pig cowering inside the flimsy house.

I believe that, using the iPad’s unique capabilities, a digital 3-D book has been designed. Each page of the story has multiple options for viewing the content. You can tap on the pad and participate in the story.

With so much already layered in this amazing story, why would anyone want to offer the children the choice to be a predator? In this app they invite the children to identify with the wolf and actively participate in blowing away the walls that protect the pigs. I don’t understand what they hope to gain (apart from a germ enriched environment.) Perhaps, it is a handy diagnostic tool: Unsure if your child is autistic? Do you believe your child has latent socio-psychopathic tendencies? Check their ability to empathise by offering them the choice of working with the …..

I’m all for interactive opportunities for children to become enthralled by the world of stories and reading but this one element – of what, I am sure, is a fabulous product – has blown me away… in a bad way.

It has been suggested that the inclusion of this element offers choice and stimulates debate. If children are, as could well happen, using the i-pad unsupervised does it stimulate debate? Even more than discussion, this group learns by seeing the world around them and unconsciously absorbing our cultural norms. Does this element reinforce the same notion that underpins bullying that - as long as you are stronger - exercising power over a weaker opponent is not only acceptable, it is fun?

Should books targeted at very young children offer every possible option? Fancy the 18 certificated version of Grandma and Little Red Riding-hood? I wouldn't want to buy  the story of Cinderella either.


  1. I think this is one of those things that could have repercussions later in the future- right now they are attempting to market to a broader range of people without realizing the outcome. In the end the parent must decide what should be done.

  2. Hi Summer
    I think you are right. No one buys the Three Little Pigs for older, more rational children. It is a great gimmick. It is also a worrying thing to encourage young children to do.

  3. I think you're right. It seems strange that kids would be offered the choice to empathize with the big bad wolf. Strange...

  4. Hi Nisa
    I'm glad it isn't just me. I'm sure most of the interactive options are positive and educational, I was shocked the manufacturers would think this element was a good idea.

  5. Hi Elaine. I sent you an email for gluten-free bread. Haven't made it yet because I don't have all the ingredients. But I thought it would be fun to give it a go.

  6. Hi Ivy
    Oh!Dear! Imagine the worst baker you have ever encountered - hold that image and multiply it by a factor of a lot and you would get close to imagining cakes and bread made by me - I'm a shocking baker. I thank all that is holey-and-not-flat-and-burned that Genius make GF bread ;)

  7. I tried these little gluten-free biscuit/cracker/cookie things. They aren't horrible but they are a billion times better with Nutella on them.

    I've not heard of Genius but will Google them.

    Have a most excellent and yummy day.