On Teaching Fairy Stories: A Guide to Cultivating Wonder in Students through Great Literature

Should we still teach fairy stories in our homes and classrooms? If so, how could we teach fairy stories effectively, delighting and enchanting our students? In On Teaching Fairy Stories, Dr. Junius Johnson makes a compelling case for including these stories in our curriculum and teaching them as an essential part of every student’s education, arguing that fairy stories enchant the hearts and minds of students, enabling them to see the mythic truth that characterizes the cosmos.

The book includes several examples of how educators can teach fairy stories with such sources as Tolkien’s The Hobbit and Rossetti’s poem “Goblin Market” along with other classic and contemporary sources. The book also includes ideas for designing lessons and crafting student assignments as well as a foreword by Dr. Louis Markos, author of The Myth Made Fact, From Achilles to Christ, and On the Shoulders of Hobbits .

Teachers are sometimes encouraged to teach modern fantasy either as a way to relate to their students’ interests or to give students a “break” from the heavy lifting of more serious texts. In On Teaching Fairy Tales, Junius Johnson makes two important–and surprising– observations. First, much of what we consider to be classic literature already includes a great many magical tales (think A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Macbeth, Ovid’s Metamorphoses , Beowulf, and The Odyssey). Second, when students study the transcendent in literature, it provides a much-needed opportunity to oppose suspicion, close-mindedness, and materialism and to replace them with awe and wonder. Johnson’s argument is compelling, and his suggestions are concrete and practical. Heartily recommended.

Diana Pavlac Glyer

Professor, The Honors College, Azusa Pacific University, and author of Bandersnatch: C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, and the Creative Collaboration of the Inklings