Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Oral Story Telling Tradition

This summer I have increased my story telling to the children.  Children love to hear stories.  Today I really realized the power of the Oral Tradition of telling stories.

I shared with them the story of 9/11.  My boys were little when it happened and so they don't remember "that fateful day."  Unfortunately I have assumed that if an event happened in their their lifetime they will remember it and understand it.  Today was the day I realized they didn't know about 9/11.  So the story telling began.  I told them about my experiences that day as well as my feelings as I watched the Twin Towers crash to the ground.  I told them (as I cried) about the plane in Pennsylvania and in the Pentagon.  I then shared with them what terrorism is and how it is impacting us today.  This naturally led into a discussion about the Gadianton Robbers.  They do know what the Gadianton Robbers are and so they could make the connection.  We then went on You Tube and watched some coverage from 9/11.  It was a holy experience.

Perhaps sometimes we think that we can't tell stories because we think we need a book.  Perhaps we choose not to share stories because we are unsure that we know enough about the subject  Perhaps we simply don't think some stories matter to our children.  Perhaps we even think that story telling is what the elderly and our grandparents are suppose to do, not us.

Story Telling as been around since time began.  Tales of courage, faith, hope and love abound in every culture.  The Australian Aborigines, the Native American cultures, and Ancient Greece shared tales of the heroic with their people.  It is a way we connect with each other, a way we feel human.  We link our selves with the past as we realize that we are all really a part of a large family and those who went before us are like us.  We can began to see into the future and how our tales ought to shape those after us.

Even though the oral story telling is a wonderful link to past and present it is a declining tradition in America.  I suppose it is because we don't talk to our children as much as past generations.  (TV, radios, game boxes, sporting events, various other entertainment options compete and win our time) I think the reasons are different with in each family.  My reasons are because I'm busy, I would rather read them a great piece of literature (it is possible to do both), I don't remember too, and sadly I'm more selfish and I'd rather do something I want to do.

Oliver DeMille identifies the importance of the oral story telling tradition in Ingredient #13-Winters.    He said,
"{Winters are} the time to tell the old stories, sing the old songs, and for the younger generation to learn the wisdom of the elder."
I don't think that we need to be limited to winters in our story telling time.  I have found traveling in the car, eating meals together, snuggling in bed together, and times around the campfire to be excellent times to weave a story.  Here is a post about a tale I told one day.

Some of the things you can tell a story about include:
  • American Revolutionary War tales (Paul Reverie, Patrick Henry, Valley Forge, Henry Knox, etc)
  • Any other war in American History (Fort McHenry and the Star Spangled Banner, Andrew Jackson, Joshua Chamberlain, etc)
  • Family History Stories (immigration patterns and reasons, pioneer stories, conversion stories, etc)
  • Bible/Scripture Stories
  • Church History Stories
  • Stories from your childhood
  • Literature stories (you condense and share the stories of Heroism)
  • Fairy Tales
  • History of the founding of your town and area, also include your state
  • Biographical retelling of famous people
  • Faith building experiences from your life
There are limitless events that we can pull from.  Retelling these stories in your own words makes them personal to you and your children.  All of these things have shaped you, your family, your community, your country and your religious beliefs and our children deserve to hear these tales.

I believe our children will need to take all these great tales of courage, faith, hope and love in order to spiritually and emotionally arm them for their battles they were sent to Earth for.  I have made a commitment to myself to tell more stories and give of myself more.


Chocolate on my Cranium said...

Reading through your suggestions for story telling I thought, "Ack! That would actually require me KNOWing something." ;)

My husband is a very good story teller. My children constantly ask about stories from his childhood, stories of the prophets and apostles, and stories from history. He has a natural knack to include voices too. So glad he is able to fill in the gaps where I am lacking!

Donna said...

What a wonderful post. I did my teaching degree in Far North Queensland Australia. It's an area where you will predominately teach Aboriginal children. I tutored 16 year old Aboriginal students with the literacy skills of a year 1 student. It was sad, but we were taught at Uni the importance of oral history with these students and giving them the opportunity to narrate things to you instead of writing. Their stories, even in their youth were just wonderful and they transcended their 'level' when given this opportunity on a regular basis & we in turn would use stories to teach them. It was beautiful. In a quest to fill my children with great literature I have forgotten this skill. Thank you for reminding me in such a wonderful way.

Jenp8 said...

Thanks for reminding me of the importance of telling my kids stories. Maybe you've already heard it but there was a great talk called "Stories that Build Statesman" given at the Forum last March on this. It can be listened to for Free at

Hope you had a great time at girls camp - I'm excited to hear how it went.

buzy bee said...

I think it is a lovely thought to share our own experiences of an event. I know my kids always listen and respond better when it comes from my heart and my head. We can do this with great literature too....I felt this when I read it....This really made me think about... When we share our thoughts and feelings about something it becomes real to our children because it was real to us...and not just a good story. Thanks for your reminders!

Christy said...

Thank you for inspiring me. I, too, have not thought to tell my children the story of 9/11. I need to tell more stories to my children.
As Oliver deMille says, "Winters are for stories." Our family reading and story time is greatly diminished during the summer, and I look forward to shorter days and cozy nights full of stories.
For now I'll try and enjoy the late evenings on the trampoline while they last.