Family stories

Last night, Zoe from Playing by the book posted a link on Twitter to an article from the Guardian that really struck a chord with me.

Written by Stuart Dredge, it features insights from Frank Cottrell Boyce about the importance of storytelling and how its essence is being lost by “celebrity magazines and reality shows.”

You can read the article in full, here.

It will come as no surprise that I’m in favour of reading as many books as possible (pretty much to the exclusion of most other activities), so Mr Cottrell Boyce already had me on side there.  I can re-read books and be instantly transported back to my childhood bedroom to experience the feelings I had when I read it for the first time.  If I’m ever lost in life, I can usually find my way back again by reading something.  Books can make me laugh, cry and question things I had previously not considered or see things from new and interesting perspectives.

However, his words also made me realise how important my family has been in all the different sorts of storytelling and what an influence this has had on my life.

M often jokes that when my family gets together we go over the same old stories about Christmases past, funny things that Granny said, the games we used to play as children, and so on.  Now, I realise that we’re not doing this because we haven’t got anything new to say (believe me, in my family we are rarely lost for words and usually end up happily chatting over the top of one another for hours on end) but because these stories are reminding us of who we are and where we belong.  As Frank Cottrell Boyce puts it:

“We’re in danger of being a society that has that short-term memory,” he said. “We don’t know who we are, and we don’t know what we’re for. I think that can happen, and it’s storytellers who can save us from that.”

In our little mini-family-society, we are lucky enough to be constantly reminding ourselves who we are and what we are for.  Much as I would love to believe otherwise, I know that this isn’t the case for everyone and it made me wonder about something else that I might be able to encourage as part of Story Seekers.

I don’t really know how I’d manage to achieve this without putting people off or seeming preachy (something I’d HATE to be) but hopefully there are wiser people out there who could advise me.  What I’d really like to do is help families take a first step towards sharing stories from books by sharing stories from their own memories.   No words to get wrong, no silly voices to do, no issue with how long or short the story might be.

I am currently reading (and LOVING) the seventh edition of Jim Trelease’s ‘Read Aloud Handbook’ and in it he tells the story of a nursery teacher who used to tell her class a story from her own life every lunchtime.  They adored it.  Not because any of the stories were especially exciting or unusual (though maybe some of them were – she did this every day for her whole career so there must have been some thrills in there occasionally) but because she was taking the time to share them and because they had a personal link to the story as they knew its main character.

If people are afraid of books and/or reading (and there are so many valid reasons why this might be the case), encouraging them to talk about the time they missed the bus or the time they knocked over a display in a supermarket might just help them break the ice and get their confidence up.  C has recently become really keen on asking us to tell him stories about what he did when he was a baby and he readily listens to the same ones over and over again (the time he ate sand and the time he bit off a part of his jigsaw puzzle are particular favourites) and even the most mundane recounts result in hysterical laughter because he has a starring role.

The article also highlights the social aspect of reading and how books and stories are meant to be shared – I was so lucky to have grandparents and parents who read with me.  When questioned about the rise in children using apps and digital reading devices, he replied:

“It’s all storytelling isn’t it?” he said. “And they talk to each other, so it’s about passing on stories. It’s all stories, and I think it’s all great. And I also think it’s the same kids that read who play those games. It’s not that games are stopping some kids from reading.”

Anything that gets us talking about stories is a good thing and this article has definitely provided me with some more Story Seekers inspiration, as well as got me grinning with anticipation for our next family gathering at the end of this month.



  1. Fantastic post and I very much agree. Stories are what make us who we are, we must keep telling our stories!

  2. I really enjoyed reading this. I think you’re absolutely right – storytelling can be a perfect way in to sharing books and is equally important in children’s reading experiences. It helps them become interested in the printed word and also in creating their own stories. I am also interested in helping families get excited about stories as I have seen through some work I am doing at present what a difference this makes. Happy to brainstorm ideas!

  3. Great post and totally agree. My husband and I are huge book-lovers too and our girls love reading books, looking at books, telling stories and writing stories. When I was pregnant with my second child, Miss 7 (who was Miss 4 then) was constantly asking me to tell her the story of her birth.

  4. My daughter (5) loves hearing stories about when she was a baby and stories about me when I was a child. My grandmother used to tell me all sorts of stories about her childhood and our various relatives and I wish that I had somehow recorded them. You’ve got me thinking about how I can preserve family stories now – what a great blog post 🙂

  5. Lucym808 · · Reply

    My kids also love hearing about when they were babies, and about me and my brothers when we were little. Now I’m thinking about those stories in a whole new way – thank you!

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