"My," the girl said. "What big ears you have!"
"The better to hear you with, my child."
"Grandma, what big eyes you have!"
"The better to see you with, my dear."
"Goodness me," said Little Red Riding Hood. "Just look at those large hands!"
"The better to hug you with."
"Oh, that mouth, grandma. What a huge, gigantic, ENORMOUS mouth!"
"The better to eat you with!"

And in one leap, the wolf was out of the bed and had gobbled Little Red Riding Hood up.

Most parents will remember reading the story of Little Red Riding Hood at some point during their own childhood. The tale remains a favourite among toddlers and pre-schoolers - thanks to a memorable cast of characters, including a scary Big Bad Wolf and a heroic Hunter, as well as the interactive dialogue.

It is also a story you can easily adapt or extend to engage with your child. After all, making stories come alive keeps a child interested and helps him absorb new ideas. Early childhood literacy instructor Suzannah Chua has plenty of ideas on how to make the most out of story time – the key thing, she suggests, is to try and help your child relate to the story.

“Create an entrance to the story by choosing stories the children can relate to. For instance, Chinese New Year is an awesome time to bring in Little Red Riding Hood," she says. "Start off with a discussion about your child's clothing and what it means, and why [most Chinese] dress in red on Chinese New Year." After that, seguing into a story about a little girl with a pretty red riding hood is simple.

Tips on pretend play

Another way to make the story more interesting is to introduce an element of pretend play. Ms Chua suggests trying these ideas:

  • Choose parts and act them out together with props.
  • Talk about what would have happened if... the hunter hadn't shown up, for example.
  • Ask your child to share what he would have done if he were Red Riding Hood, or another of the characters. “Never let gender limit you – boys have some very creative perspectives on what Grandma could have thought while she was trussed up in the closet!” she adds.

Storytelling can also be used to encourage your child to flex his creative muscles. One way is by asking open-ended questions - avoid questions that elicit yes/ no answers. Don't just ask "what colour was Riding Hood's cape?" but instead, ask your child "why do you think she wore a red cape?" Ask for more details than are included in the text - "What does the wolf sound like?" "How little is Red Riding Hood?"

Once the story becomes a familiar one, try encouraging your child to create different versions. Move away from the printed text and just talk about what is happening, based on the accompanying pictures, for example. “Let your child interrupt the story with comments. Talk to him about his thoughts,” adds Ms Chua. “Sometimes, small details in picture books can add a very creative twist to stories!"

Other versions

One of the best things about Little Red Riding Hood is the many retellings of the story – from its darker incarnations by Charles Perrault and the Grimm brothers to more light-hearted versions, there’s a different story suitable for every age. One version even has grandma hide in the cupboard to avoid scaring younger children who might be terrified by the idea of her getting eaten by the wolf.

Other versions you might want to check out include Roald Dahl’s version found in his collection Revolting Rhymes. Told in a series of rhyming couplets, this poem is funny, quirky and even includes a pistol-wielding Red Riding Hood. Best of all, it’s accompanied by Quentin Blake’s spot-on illustrations.

Lon Po Po is an ancient Chinese version that is perhaps more suitable for older pre-schoolers. It won the 1990 Randolph Caldecott Medal for its watercolour and pastel illustrations.

Whichever version your child enjoys – the main thing is to immerse yourself into the story’s world and have lots of fun. After all, these tips can be applied to any story that captures the imagination of your child – the library is your limit!

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Contributed by:
Early Childhood Development Agency