Sunday, March 24, 2013

Telling and Retelling Family Stories

In the New York Times Motherlode column here a mother discusses the importance of a family frequently telling, and retelling, the family history to each other, what she calls "family stories."

This column makes me uneasy.  I think telling, and retelling, family stories can create stereotypes that children then feel they have to follow—things like, oh, he’s the sensitive one, and she always has a hard time with new experiences.  If children want to talk about the past, and about their own past, sure, listen sympathetically.  But maybe they want to let those old stores, and those old pictures of themselves, go.

I think it’s more important to help children love reading, and fiction stories.  Have discussions about the books they love, and you’ll find they naturally make connections from the books to their own lives.  With the new narrators in books, they can see their own stories in a different light.  They can recreate their own stories. 

And—a not insignificant benefit—the skills they develop through avid reading will make their future lives richer and their academic careers more successful.

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