Educational Insights 12.16..2013
Educational Insights 12.16.2013
Posted on 12/16/2013

Reading books with your children is clearly a good idea. Yet, what most parents don’t know is that everyday family stories confer many of the same benefits of reading–and even some new ones. Over the last 25 years, a small canon of research on family storytelling shows that when parents share more family stories with their children, there are numerous benefits. For instance, studies show that when parents learn to reminisce about everyday events with their preschool children in more detailed ways, their children tell richer, more complete narratives to other adults.

Children of parents who learned new ways to reminisce also demonstrate better understanding of other people’s thoughts and emotions. These advanced narrative and emotional skills serve children well in their school years when reading complex material and learning to get along with others. In the preteen years, children whose families collaboratively discuss everyday events and family history more often have higher self-esteem and stronger self-concepts. And adolescents with a stronger knowledge of family history have more robust identities, better coping skills, and lower rates of depression and anxiety. Family storytelling can help a child grow into a teen who feels connected to the important people in her life.

Best of all, unlike stories from books, family stories are always free and completely portable. You don’t even need to have the lights on to share with your child a story about your day, about their day, about your childhood or their grandma’s. In the research on family storytelling, all of these kinds of stories are linked to benefits for your child. Family stories can continue to be part of a parent’s daily interactions with their children into adolescence, long past the age of the bedtime story.

Books contain narratives, but only family stories contain your family’s personal narratives. Fortunate children get both. They hear and read stories from books to become part of other people’s worlds, and they hear and tell stories of their family to understand who they are and from whence they came.

The holidays are prime time for family storytelling. Family stories can be told nearly anywhere. They cost us only our time, our memories, our creativity. They can inspire us, protect us, and bind us to others. So be generous with your stories, and be generous in your stories. Remember that your children may have them for a lifetime. (The Atlantic, 12/9/13: “What Kids Learn from hearing Family Stories”) Happy storytelling during the holidays!

-Dr. Paula Sissel

Garden County Schools

Superintendent/Elementary Principal