Like many other girls their ages here in the United States, Evangeline and Rachel are just nuts about Disney Princesses. They love to watch the movies, play with the dolls, dress up, and role play -- all of which wouldn't be so bad if the Disney Princesses weren't so vacuous.
Sometime last year, I took advantage of my older daughter's big Cinderella kick, and asked her if she'd like to hear another version of the story, from Germany. When she agreed, I pulled out my beloved copy of Grimm's Fairy Tales, and introduced her to Ashenputel, the girl whose stepsisters actually cut off parts of their feet to get into shoe.
In the months since then, we've been making a point of hitting up our library for other-cultural versions of the Princesses and various other fairy tale characters. With Cinderella alone, Evangeline has been exposed to fairy tales from Mexico, Ireland, Cambodia, the Phillipines, Germany, Swaziland, England, France, West Virginia, Haiti and Los Angeles. In the process, she's been developing comparative-literature skills-- on her own, she recognized that the bull in an Irish Cinderella story played the same part as the fairy godmother -- and she's been learning world geography. Every time we read a fairy tale, we find the country of origin on our world map, and place a sticker of that country's flag on the map.
So instead of butting heads with the vapidness of Disney, I've managed to turn it into something valuable. Now if I could only find something educational to do with Elmo...