I think I have always been a storyteller. When I was a child, even before we had electricity, I looked forward to the evenings with my family when we would sit around the kitchen table and talk about the day’s events. I can still see the warm glow from the gas lanterns casting shadows on the walls.
Sometimes, I would make up wild adventures about a ferocious alligator living under our dock. Or I would scare my sisters with tales of a mysterious creature lurking in the icehouse in our backyard.
That was all before hydro wires reached my house and “I Love Lucy” invaded my living room, and when Apple was still just a fruit.
I believe that television and other electronic mediums, so readily available now, in every home, have contributed to shutting down the human voice.
As many of our children are growing up on a diet of bland TV sitcoms and computer games as their intellectual junk food, they become desensitized to the tug of their own emotions.
It’s very hard to return to the traditions of oral communications in a world of sound bites, where we simply “turn off” or “tune out” if we don’t like what we hear or see. It’s much too easy for children to transfer this behavior into real life situations.
It hurts my heart to know that oral storytelling is becoming a dying art for many families. In my view, it’s the most practical and natural means of talking about ordinary or profound matters that would otherwise never be discussed.
It’s a way to teach children and adults how to listen respectfully to each other’s voices and to feel connected by hearing our own feelings expressed by others. And as sure as a love of stories is connected to a love of reading… oral storytelling is connected to building confidence and self-esteem in children. Now how cool is that?
It’s my belief that teaching the art of oral storytelling is an investment in the futures of our children and grandchildren. It gives them a basic training in sequencing events, and organizing thoughts and experiences into chunks; an invaluable skill to have at any age. And it teaches them how to listen and be heard; a basic ability so many adults have never mastered.
Children tell stories as a way to solve problems and understand the world around them.
If you want to know what your child is thinking about, listen to their stories.
So maybe it’s time to put away the tablets, cell phones and laptops and let our imaginations do the talking.
Two of the most important skills we can have as adults are an ability to adapt and a proficiency for public speaking. It’s been said that some people would rather choose death over speaking in public! Now how silly is that?
By consistently developing our narrative skills from an early age, we become comfortable with shifting plots and thinking on our feet, as it were.
As we mature, we learn to embrace change and gain confidence in our ability to speak out and engage others. These are huge life-skills that go a long way in helping children to become successful adults.
Through oral storytelling exercises, I believe the power of language can help to develop thinkers, imaginers and status-quo shakers. By exercising our creative muscles from an early age, we learn to be inventive, ask questions and look outside the lines.
What a simple but powerful gift we can give to our grandchildren – a gift that will keep on giving for many years to come.
Now isn’t that a legacy we would all like to leave behind?
Do you like to make up stories with your grandchildren? What do you do to encourage storytelling in your family? Please join the conversation.