Parents are encouraged time and time again to read stories from books with their young children, as the benefits are many – improved literacy skills, increased school success, parent-child bonding, developing a lifetime interest in reading and more. Yet, everyday family stories may offer some of the same benefits as reading, along with other benefits, too.
Storytelling is the most powerful way that individuals share (and record) their life experiences. Storytelling in a family can include stories about a parent’s childhood, a family trip, or a child retelling about the day’s activities. When adults share more family stories with children, children benefit.
Children are never too young to begin hearing stories. Family storytelling can happen just about anytime and anywhere – from dinnertime conversations to rides home from the store. Here are suggestions on how to get started:
Share a story from your childhood. To capture your child’s attention include interesting information or funny facts. “I once got in trouble and was kicked off the school bus. The school bus driver was my Dad!” Use props (a toy bus for example) to help engage your child, especially younger ones, in the story. When children are able to connect to the stories, they are more likely to remember them. Also encourage children to tell their own stories often. Sharing heirlooms and photographs can also bring the past to life and offer many opportunities for storytelling.
With the benefits of techonology, it is easier to keep family stories alive – online communication, blogs, geneology websites, etc.
This connection, especially with older relatives, brings the generations together and creates strong family bonds. Stories shared by older adults are vital in connecting a family’s past to the present. Related actvities could include attending special family events like a reunion or going on family history field trip.
The holidays are the perfect time to share family stories. Talk to your child about family traditions and favorite recipes passed down through generations. Also include stories from your past holidays.
With your child, create a photo book of family members and talk about them as you read the book. Also, making a family tree can help children begin to see how families are connected.
Researchers say simply “knowing” family history isn’t enough (the content). It is also about how the stories are told, when they are told, and the overall detail and emotion included with the story (the process). The stories need to be told over and over and at times when families can focus on one another. Therefore, it’s important to continually create opportunities for children to learn, and benefit from, their family history.
Partners in Parenting
The first five years of life have a significant effect on children’s development and learning and parents play the most important role during this time. Partners in Parenting offers many educational programs, workshops and resources primarily for parents with young children (0-5 years of age) to support healthy child development, school readiness skills, and positive parent-child interaction.
YaeBin K. and H. Petermeier, 2016, Family Storytelling and the Benefits for Children, University of Nevada Cooperative Extension, FS-16-07
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