I still remember the amazing stories my father used to tell me when I was a kid. He was a great storyteller, and he still is. Every night before putting me to bed, he would tell me enchanting tales. He would mention each and every detail; he would describe the ambiance from the costumes and props to the funny names of characters. He would even change his voice and act the story out for me. These are among my best childhood memories.
All human beings have an innate need to hear and tell stories and to have a story to live by. Every family has a story which defines it, distinguishes it from the rest and stands for the values transmitted. Stories of family background represent how the family has grown into what it is today, what customs have prevailed from older times and how the thinking of people has evolved over the years.
When history was not recorded, there were stories. Stories handed down from parents to children were the prime means of cultural roots. This is very important in its own way, because I believe those who are not conscious of their history are fated to repeat its mistakes. In olden days, tribal people valued the stories of their ancestors as their most cherished and precious treasure.
My father’s stories helped me learn. I count them as one of the main reasons behind my creativity and ability to pen down my feelings.
While listening to a story, our sense of hearing is involved; naturally, our imagination becomes stronger as we try to visualize environments and characters in our own way.
Stories are not merely a source of entertainment for young ones – they provide us with a sense of familiarity of the real world. Stories transmit important information, values and morals. The informal sittings of storytelling are an indirect way of family communication, where every individual participates and a lasting bond is established.
Storytelling allows children to relate to personal experiences and develop their own understanding and perceptions of the world. Stories facilitate every individual to learn something new, through which they can rediscover themselves.
Young people are inspired to ask questions, which is the very first step of learning. Stories have the strength to inculcate the right usage of words in the right context. As these contexts will be repeated in real life, learning will be reinforced for better mental development. Also, every member finds the liberty to agree or disagree with the morals and ethics of the story. This leads to intelligent debate and discussion between parents and children without any pressure to conform for the sake of agreement. Parents get to know their kids and kids get to understand the elders better.
Unfortunately, this beautiful tradition is diminishing in today’s times, where visuals have taken the place of the imaginative world. Now, children are more engrossed in television cartoons, video games and the internet, which in a way have damaged their natural imaginative capabilities. Storytelling has become an alien concept, to which many kids cannot relate any more. Even parents or elders do not have much time to engage children in such activities.
Our religion Islam is full of beautiful stories. Stories of the different Prophets have always been my favourite since childhood; I recall reading the stories of Musa (as), Yousuf (as) and Isa (as). Also, the stories of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (saw) are mesmerizing and enchanting with astounding moral lessons. If parents and teachers engage in storytelling in a captivating manner, I am sure it would help our children understand their religion better.
We need to revive the lost tradition of storytelling, in order to construct in our children a better understanding of life. The love for knowledge will be awakened in the youth only when they are intellectually nurtured at the basic level, and storytelling is an essential way to engage minds towards betterment.
A highly recommended author for children aged 9-12 years is Michael Morpurgo. This award-winning writer has served as the Children’s Laureate from 2003 to 2005, taking him all over the UK to promote literacy and reading. His stories are special because they are sensitive, thought-provoking and heart-warming. If narrated by a parent to the child at bedtime, they can work wonders in helping children understand the realities of life and how to tackle them. They also provide excellent topics of discussion between a child and a parent, offering a unique bonding opportunity.