When I was young, my favorite time of the day was the family dinner. During dinner, we conversed about everyday topics while vying for our parents’ attention. After dinner, while nibbling on dessert, we grew quiet in anticipation of our parents telling stories. During these family story times, we learned how it felt to grow up on the prairie during the depression. We learned how our parents met. We learned about ourselves as babies and toddlers. These family memories were weaved into stories that transported us to different times and places.
My siblings and I recall these stories to this very day. Our vocabularies grew as our parents talked about churning, milk cans and threshers. We listened with wide eyed wonder to tales of blizzards and tornadoes. We rooted for our parents as they described attempting something they had never done before. We grew to know people, places and ideas through rich descriptions which brought these stories to life.
Everyday conversations with children, while very important, are different from stories. Conversations are about the here and now covering topics familiar to us. Conversational sentence length is shorter and less descriptive than stories since the speaker and listener are in the same place experiencing the same things. Our sentences are brief because we use body language, facial expressions and the environment to add meaning to our words.
Stories on the other hand, whether told or read, kick language up a notch. Children benefit from experiencing these words on steroids.
As bloggers you participate in a form of storytelling. As you write each post, you think about the words and pictures that will best illustrate the message you want to share. Words and pictures are a powerful tool. These rich vocabulary experiences need to be shared with children.
So how can we help families develop oral story traditions? By taking time to expand our own conversations into story sharing experiences with the families and children in our lives. If you know of families who would like a few story telling ideas, I have some. As a speech and language pathologist, I am rarely at a loss for words.
A Handout to Jump Start Family Storytelling:
Home is Where Your Story Begins and Language Grows