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Telling our Stories

The Importance of Story: Yours, Your Family’s, and Your World’s

“Story is what makes us human. Through our individual and family stories we can better understand and empathize with people we’ve never even met. Storytelling binds us together as a family, as a society, as humans.

Story is important because it’s a way for children to explore their fears, take risks, be the hero — or the villain — and find out what happens. Story teaches empathy. How does it feel to have autism, albinism, be a minority, be bullied for the religion you follow? Story can comfort us if we’re going through the same ordeal as the protagonist, or enlighten those of us who haven’t had those experiences but will likely deal with those who do. Story can teach a skill or teach us about ourselves or show us how to think in new ways, to see different cultures, and cultures within cultures. Story can teach us societal norms and traditions, or it can take us into a fantasy world that, though unreal, can be an allegorical window into our own world. Story can also make us laugh — at antics, at characters, at ourselves.

Even though I write for young readers, my goal is to tell a story for all ages, a story with heart and authenticity that makes it universal. Adults, after all, may be the librarians choosing the books, teachers assigning the books, or parents reading the books aloud. And adults, whatever age, have something in common — we were all children ourselves, children who loved stories. Who doesn’t enjoy being read to? Recorded books are not just for harried commuters. They can be savored in quiet moments. Stories soothe and inspire, and we can all use that.

Stories can be as simple as relating what happened to you twenty minutes ago or twenty years ago. It can be passing down a family legend that has been embellished over the years or a family secret that has been preserved intact. Hearing family stories is particularly fun if they’re about adults doing embarrassing things as children. I loved those stories about my own mother and my children plead to hear the ones about me. Why? Again, because it makes us human. “Please tell us about when you got locked in the school bathroom, or rode your bike into the pond, or went door to door selling stale candy telling people your family needed money!”

Your history, your family history is a part of who you are and makes you what you’ll become — even if you completely reject it. That, in itself, plays a role in forming who you decide to be.

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