Storytelling Brings Family History to Life

Storytelling is one of my favorite ways to connect with my two granddaughters. When they say, “Baba, tell us a story,” it’s music to my ears. Most of our storytelling takes place on the phone. When my older granddaughter was three, she learned to dial my phone number and ask me to tell her a story while her mom took a nap. Now she’s twelve and writes a lot of stories herself. She and her younger sister like to suggest the plot before I start my story. I like to ask them, “What do you think happened next?”

Why Tell Stories

Storytelling is more than entertainment. Storytelling brings family history to life. Through the centuries storytelling has been an essential part of family life. Besides fostering creativity and imagination, the intimacy of telling stories enables us to convey our values, teach language and vocabulary, make sense of the past, share emotions, and teach skills for overcoming challenges and adversity.

There is nothing like a story to stretch the imagination and expand a child’s perspective. Perhaps, the most important gift of storytelling is the intimacy that grows from the story moment when you and your grandchild cuddle up to each other and block out all the distractions around you.

Storytelling is becoming a lost art. With today’s families spending less time together and rushing from one activity to the next, there’s precious leisure time to just sit and enjoy a good story. If there is down time, children would rather engage with media and technology than the old-fashioned pleasure of face-to-face conversation.

Even though the tradition of gathering around the fireside to tell stories is a thing of the past, there are still many opportunities to tell stories: during long car rides, while waiting, at nap time and bedtime, and during family get-togethers.

As grandmas, we can model the art of storytelling for our grandchildren by making a conscious effort to share stories of our family history. By doing so, we’ll give them the gift of passing on values, expressing emotions, and stretching their imagination.

How to Tell Stories

If you’re worried that your storytelling abilities are not worthy, don’t give up. Not everyone feels comfortable telling stories, but if you practice you can get better.

Even the simplest stories will delight your grandchild. They don’t have to be clever or funny. There are lots of resources for building your skills. In Parents’ Guide to Storytelling, Margaret Read MacDonald suggests you start with stories you already know. Make a note of the plot line and retell yourself just that. Tell the story in your own words. Involve your grandchild by asking him to repeat a phrase or think up a detail himself.

When you’re ready to venture into your own personal stories, Donald Davis (no relation) has some advice in Telling Your Own Stories (American Storytelling.) He suggests you think about the memorable people, places and happenings in your life for story ideas — those stories about “the time when.” These are the stories that help a family define their identity and stay in touch with who they are. He explains how to “go fishing for plots” by remembering a “crisis” and offers some prompts to help you fish for the story. Tapping into your senses brings the story to life by describing how things tasted, smelled, felt, looked and sounded.

Storytelling is one of the best ways to bring our family history to life. Imagine the impact you can have on your grandchildren by sharing some of your family stories and memories. Children love hearing stories about when you were young and even more, when their parents were young.

1 thought on “Storytelling Brings Family History to Life”

  1. Thanks for the suggestions especially for those of us lacking confidence in our own abilities or imagination. I guess it helps to start when the listeners are really young.

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