Literary figures have known throughout history the vulnerabilities of little children. Writers have also understood throughout centuries how words can either hurt or help readers and listeners. How has literature changed for the better in helping parents to understand how to protect themselves from predators?

Such was the case of Little Red Riding Hood that goes back to pre-17thcentury. One version by the Brothers Grimm is the one that was quite frightening to me as a young child. Think of the wolf swallowing both the girl and the grandmother only to have the woodcutter cut them out of the wolf’s stomach. At that time in history, Little Red Riding Hood did serve its purpose of telling people about the danger of the wolf. And, to young children who still thought only in literal terms, the wolf was a bad animal and, therefore, not seen as a human predator as adults understood it to be. So, not all children will take from this that adults can hurt you as well. Furthermore, Little Red Riding Hood did not encourage further discussion on what to do or who to tell if someone did something hurtful or uncomfortable to you as a child. So, has time come to change the story and dialogue for our children? 

Fast forward a few centuries when we have professionals like social workers, psychologists, teachers, etc. who can work with parents and young children to accomplish the same as Little Red Riding Hood but without so much frightening blood.

Based on present day knowledge of professionals, books are now being written that allow gentle and effective talk on dangers that some young children face. Do Not Snuggle with a Puggle is a new book out that uses friendly animals and a couple of not so friendly animals in which the author and illustrator are able to guide the young naïve Wally Wallaby safely home to his parents. Once Wally is safe his friend and rescuer, Major Mitchell the cockatoo, explains in simple sentences how to stay safe. Yes, there is danger in Wally’s travels but he has friends and parents along the way to guide him to safety. This allows for a start to a much-needed discussion between parents and children on personal safety.

On this centuries-long literary journey of teaching stranger-danger that adults travel with their children, Little Red Riding Hood can be important. However, as time and knowledgeable professions leading the way, children’s stories like Do Not Snuggle with a Puggle can be more productive in preparing for greater safety for our children through the examples of dialogue to have with children.

Stranger Danger – Little Red Riding Hood to Do Not Snuggle with a Puggle