The studies are clear. Children who are read stories learn to read better than children who are not. When parents demonstrate that they, too, love reading to themselves, they model a love of reading to their children which children like to emulate. This seems understandable. But what I’ve been wondering about is the impact of telling stories to children.
For over 40 years I’ve been telling children the stories of Uncle Lloyd. He was my real uncle, my mother’s oldest brother. I heard these stories in the evening when I was a child. My grandmother, Lloyd’s mother, often spent the nights with us and returned to her home during the days. We slept together in my bedroom and she would scratch my back and tell me these stories of her first-born child. I loved hearing these stories and asked her to tell them to me over and over again.
When I was a child it was common for adults to tell stories. We had books but not so many as your children have in today’s time. We didn’t have lots of toys to play with, certainly no electronic games. Our fun was created by our own imaginations as we pretended a card table with a sheet over it was a cave. Without many picture books, we learned to make our own mental images as stories were told to us. We had to listen carefully to get the gist of the story; there weren’t any visual aids. Times were different as they are for all generations, different, not better not worse, just ours. The time then belonged to us and our way of life.
I’ve thought a lot about those days, how much fun it was to be with my grandmother each night as she devoted herself to me. I’ve been impressed at how I’ve held on to those stories of Uncle Lloyd that she told me. But even more than that, I’ve been dumbfounded by how children over all these years have loved hearing these stories. They ask to be told them over and over again. Now for those of you who haven’t heard these stories, let me tell you that they’re not magical or mystical stories. They aren’t the stuff of Harry Potter. They’re just little vignettes about the life of a child growing up in the early 1900s. I have a few old, old photographs which prove to the children that these people really did live but don’t show anything related to the substance of the Uncle Lloyd stories. No, the children are required to listen carefully and to do just what I did when I was little, make their own mind pictures of Uncle Lloyd’s life.
There’s something to all this that we all need to take in. Oral stories are a tradition as old as time and as valuable, too. Start your own storytelling legacy with your own children. Then when they are my age they will know their own history and be able to preserve it.
Director/Elementary 1 Teacher