There is power in telling stories. Think about how much you enjoy a good one. Most of our entertainment is done thru the art of storytelling: movies, theater, television shows, books, music, magazines, newspapers, blogs… It goes way back, look at the cave dwellers and the stories painted on the walls. Every culture has an oral history tradition, some have retained it better than others. Do you remember listening to stores that your parents would tell you or your grandparents? Take a moment to reflect back on all the wonderful enjoyment you have had, especially when you were young, through hearing a good story.
I referred earlier to storytelling as an art , and I truly believe that it is. It is something that everyone can learn however, it all has to do with confidence really. You many notice that you are quite captivating as a storyteller at a dinner party after a glass of wine for example. Its not the wine talking silly, it is you. But the wine may have allowed you to let down your inhibitions and open up your true creative genius to shine through! Another way to gain confidence in storytelling is to practice it, and who better to do that with than your baby, toddler, young child, and dare I suggest, your growing fetus in the womb? They all LOVE stories and are the most patient and eager listeners.
Reading a story is a wonderful thing too. Did you notice that I am subtly or not so subtly differentiating reading a story from telling a story? Yes, it is true, these are two very different crafts, both involve story, but one is more interactive and engages the creativity of the teller. It also encourages more imagination from the listener. Reading to your child and baby is VERY IMPORTANT, it is a wonderful way to bond, to encourage calmness, and to model reading as enjoyable and worthy of time. I believe it should be done with a child EVERY DAY. My home tradition has been to read to my daughter every night before bed. Some do it at other times, whenever you do, JUST DO IT!
Important side note, please read or seriously scan any children’s book that you are going to read to a toddler, or young child BEFORE you start reading, there might be content that is inappropriate for the emotional level or age of your child, or perhaps not in the value match with your family…you’d be surprised how many people open a book and start reading without checking the content first. I’m also surprised how many people take their young children to movies or put them in front of a DVD without watching it first…food for thought.
Back to the oral non-read story. I actually have a book title for you on how amazing it is to hone this skill with your fetus, baby, child: Storytelling with Children by Nancy Mellon. I highly recommend it.
There is growing research and data on the development of the brain and the developmental stage of the baby, toddler, young child and learning through stories. The Waldorf School has it woven into their curriculum for all early childhood programs and classes. Rudolf Steiner considered story to be the best way to educate the young mind. I believe around the age of 9 the brain development begins to shift where story is not the best way to teach. If you lay the foundation of using story to teach and to entertain from birth to 9, you will find that you have child that has a rich and fertile imagination. And if you look at what is needed most in this world to be successful and live a fulfilling life, the ability to dream, imagine, create, and focus on manifesting dreams into reality is a part of that success and happiness for adults.
Form a habit of telling stories. And singing songs. Make up songs. Make up stories. And when you do that, write them down or at least a summary of them, you may be surprised what you forget especially the spontaneous story. As the child gets older, they LOVE hearing about historical bits from when you were a child. This is the oral history tradition in living color, tell stories of your favorite camping trip, or some funny time with your grandpa. I tell my daughter about how I would sit on my grandma’s lap in her rocker and she would sing me a song, and then I sing it. She is STILL mezmorized by that story and she is almost 8! The Little House Book Series is an example of personal history created into stories told to generations.
We are going to have a 3 part blog series here on the power of stories and telling to the womb, the new born, and the older toddler written by professional story teller Rebecca Martin, who is based in LA. We will start next week and they will provide “how to” examples for you. In the meantime, take a sip of water, clear your throat, and start singing to that baby growing in the womb, or talk to your toddler before bed about why the birdies chirp in the spring.
Alisa Donner, MSW, LCSW, Co-Founder of Pregnancy Awareness Month