Williamsburg Wreath and Telling Family Stories

Williamsburg Wreath

Christmas is a story-ing time so I am re-posting abut Family Storytelling.

Some time back there was an article in The Wall Street Journal-about the importance of telling family stories in the family. Today I found a copy of a comment I posted then and I am reposting it here. Author Sue Shellenenbarger talks about the importance of telling family stories to children. She 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.

A side benefit for telling family stories in our culturally diverse class room is increased understanding and respect. 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 us 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 not more important than for parents just to do it whether they do it well or not. When I taught a storytelling class in a Northern California Middle School over and over the 7th graders said 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 a my storytelling residency classo 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 returned 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 raise awareness of the importance for family storytelling?


hart said...

That Pearl harbor story is so touching, just lovely.--Jane

Alan G said...

I have been thinking about your question now for a couple of days. And as you touched on, the closeness of a family greatly affects the relating of these family stories.

I do think, however, that blogging has greatly increased the documenting of these stories by the folks who lived them. Many of whom are parents and grandparents. And although their children and grandchildren may exhibit little interest in them today, tomorrow these stories may become precious gifts that they continue to share.

I think it is important for those of us who do choose to document our life's experiences and stories (and I like to refer to it as 'Biographical Scrapbooking")that we make sure it does not get lost by archiving it in some manner for the day those same children and grandchildren desire that precious family history.

Although these young folks may not recognize the value of these treasures early on, there will come a day for most when they will sadly mourn their loss of those moments they chose to not listen.

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