3/14/2009

Wall Street Journal - family stories

March 11 The Wall Street Journal ran an article, March 11 The Wall Street Journal ran an article, Life Stories: Children Find Meaning In Old Family Tales, touting the importance of telling family stories. There are still five days for you to read it before it is archived. Because the WSJ only posts for paid subscribers I have posted my thoughts about the article here. I hope you will post comments for a conversation here also.

Author Sue Shellenenbarger quotes many, including Sherry Norfork, NSN President, on the hows and whys of telling these stories in the family. She talks about how children can learn to deal with tough times through family examples.

But, where is the mention that budgets and time are so tight that schools do not make the time to bring storytellers and family stories into the class room or to encourage students to collect family stories and tell them back to their classmates.

What better way for students from different cultures to know each other better and respect each other. As one student said in one of my classes - "you can't dis on this - this is about your family."

Or where is the mention of how busy parents are these days that they do not take time over dinner to share old stories. Maybe they are not even eating dinner together as a family. Often families today are not as lucky as many of were - to be baptized in family storytelling on the front porch southern-style. Or those stories are drowned out by television.Yes, how you tell a story can be important but more vital is that parents just do it -whether they do it well or not.

When I taught a family storytelling class in a Northern California Middle School students said over and over that they did not know any family stories. After being asked to ASK for stories at home on suggested topics that soon changed. By the end of the six sessions there were 21 tellers out of 27 students - all sharing stories from their families.

I remember a ninth grader in my storytelling residency class on family stories at a Maryland High School. When she was asked to interview an elder about where they were on December 7 - the day of the attack on Pearl Harbor, she came back to class with a touching story. She called her great grandmother, a woman who lived out of town, a woman she hardly knew. She learned that this woman had worked in a West Virginia munitions plant during WWII after her husband was killed; that she had advanced to wearing the pink dress of a supervisor. The other students listened with rapt attention as she told her story. She ended with, " I did not know anything about her. I have never really liked her. But now that I know her story, I think I can love her."

What are your thoughts on this topic?
Do you have suggestions for strategies to increase awareness of the importance of telling family stories?

5 comments:

TravelinOma said...

There are many heroes in our past, but the ones we know about are those whose stories have been told. Somehow we think those people were better or braver than all the others. Our children deserve to know that their own ancestors contributed to the whole and made a difference in the world. Who else is going to tell them those stories, if we don't?

Thanks for your comment on my blog. I'm flattered that you're a reader!

ELLOUISESTORY said...
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