“We respond to stories because they cultivate emotion and a sense of togetherness – a connection.” – Joshua VanDeBrake
“Just one more story…p-l-e-a-s-e!” How many times have we heard that plea at bedtime? As tired parents we may think our children are just stalling to keep us with them longer, and while that is usually true, it is also true that children can never seem to get enough of stories. Why is it that children (and all of us) love stories so much?
When I Googled “why do children love stories so much?” I read that “we are all biologically and neurologically wired to connect with stories,” and that the stories we relate to “increase our level of the feel-good hormone, oxytocin.” No wonder children beg us for more, more and more! What could feel better than snuggling close to the humans they love most and hearing stories that make them feel so good?
For a variety of reasons, some parents don’t enjoy reading books to their children, but that doesn’t mean they can’t still share stories with them. Sharing stories with children doesn’t have to mean reading stories from a book. Children love to hear stories about when their grownups were little. Often the stories they love best are not the ones in books, but their stories, the stories about them that only their grownups know and can tell them.
I’ve dreamed of being a “for-real” storyteller for a long time. When I learned how much children’s own stories mean to them I had even more incentive to learn how to be a good storyteller. I’ve been studying an amazingly, perfect-for-me book called, How To Tell Stories To Children and Everyone Else Too, by Silke Rose West & Joseph Darosy. I have learned that even though most of us probably don’t think of ourselves as storytellers, we definitely are. We all tell stories all day, every day. We just don’t often tell the “Once-upon-a-time” kind. Yet, with a little instruction and some encouragement we can all become that kind of storyteller as well.
There are two very special children’s books on this topic of telling stories that I want to share with you. The first is, Just One More Story, written by Jennifer Brutschy, and fabulously illustrated by Cat Bowman Smith. It’s definitely a read-aloud-family must-have, regardless of your children’s ages. The second one is, Once Upon a Time This Morning, by Anne Rockwell, pictures by Sucie Stevenson. This book of little family stories is a perfect model of the kind of story telling I’m learning to do. Reading the short, simple stories in Rockwell’s book gave me the confidence to step up to the role of being a for-real storyteller.
Once we add the words, “Once upon a time” to begin telling the story of a young child’s adventure of finding a toad, it becomes an opportunity to create a personal story that the child will delight in hearing again and again. Unlike books, the stories we tell children are completely free and they are always available no matter where we are. If I can do this, you can too!
The season of giving is upon us and, since you’ve likely spent more than the usual amount of time with your children in recent months, you have lots of stories to tell. I found it easier to write out my stories before I tried telling them, but stories can also be told completely on the fly. As all parents know, desperation can be the mother of creativity. Writing down my stories gave me an exciting new gift-giving idea for this holiday article.
What if you looked through the million pictures on your phone and picked a few favorites to turn into short stories? Then, using a pretty journal or a photo album, you created a book for each child making a collection of their personal stories? The cost would be minimal, it would be fun to create, and it may well be the favorite gift they treasure forever.There is also a bonus for you in giving this gift. By the time you’ve read those little stories to them dozens of times, you will know them by heart, and you, too, will be a “for-real” storyteller, as well.