Of many stories, Tom told his four-year-old son, one, in particular, stood out–the story of a knight who saves a beautiful princess held captive by a beast in an old castle on the hills. Today, as he watched his son build sandcastles on the beach, he vividly recalled the gleam in his son’s bright blue eyes when he had told him the story a year ago. A flood of memories gushed through Tom’s mind. He remembered his own childhood when his father told him stories about angels, gods, civilisations, kings and their glorious conquests among many other things his father was fascinated with. He realised how impactful these stories were during his formative years.
Those value-based stories not only shaped his personality but also helped him improve his expression and ability to read. Tom did not realise then what stories did for him, what profound effect the process of telling them had on him. A father now, Tom wanted to carry forward the legacy of storytelling left behind by his father. He wished to explore this world to educate his child. The approaching summer would be the best time to start, he decided.
As he sat in front of his laptop to study the nuances of storytelling, Tom thought of all the stories that moved him to tears, inspired and influenced him. It is a fact that a good story can make or break a conversation. So the question was–what does a good story do to the minds of children?
No doubt, just like Tom, all of us love a good story. We have grown up listening to stories from grandparents. But little did we know as children what these stories did to our minds and how they shaped our personalities? To take Tom’s quest further, Soulveda decided to explore the world of storytelling children are an integral part of.
A story is a connection you make with your child as it is one of the most fundamental methods of communication. Popular storyteller Jeff Gere told Soulveda, “Our brain literally puts everything in a story format. A beginning, a climax and a conclusion and that is the way we process everything in this world.” Gere says stories are fundamental and endemic. We look for a story to remember. If there is no story, we make up a story so we can remember. More so, for children, everything should be in a story format.
Through stories, you can put forth ideas and fuel a child’s imagination. A story puts the child’s brain into work, enhancing his ability to think. For instance, when you tell a child the prince’s skin was as soft as a marshmallow, he goes into his own world of the prince, marshmallows and their softness.
Our brains are wired this way. When someone narrates a story to a child, the child has a deeper involvement in it as he puts himself in the shoes of the protagonist and thinks what he would do, had he been in that situation. Whether it is books, pictures or rhymes, the characters in a story help children understand themselves. Gere says, “Stories help children empathise. It is a DNA strand of cause and effect. If we don’t have stories embedded in our psyche how can we empathise?”
Moreover, when you tell a moral story to a child, he is less likely to forget the moral behind the story. Stories stay etched in a child’s mind forever. Each time there is a situation akin to it, he probably will act in the right manner. “The bad guy doesn’t get far and the good guys' triumph at the end. These are lessons for life,” Gere says.
Sometimes stories are answers to bigger problems like tantrums. Gere narrates a story about an unruly kid who had stabbed his parents with a fork. The kid was taken to a child psychologist who told him, why do you let that little thing inside you–that angry monkey–run your life? When your parents or somebody does something that makes you mad, the little anger monkey makes you do stupid wild things? Why don’t you tell that monkey to get off your back, sit in the corner and wait till it is appropriate? You just did monkey for the monkey. Gere says since then the psychologist has never heard any such incidents from the child.
We are all living a story. Don’t you want to change your story? Don’t you want to live another story? If you tell someone they have the ability to write new characters, do something wonderful and change their story, it makes a lasting impact on them and they change for the better. Stories stay with us for life.