What Makes Stories Stay With Us?
An exploration on what makes children's stories memorable...
There are stories we loved as children, and then there are those that stay with us until we grow up. As time goes by, we are often lucky enough to find more stories worth telling, and more lessons worth sharing with our kids. But what makes the ‘special’ stories stick?
Perhaps the way they are told matters just as much as the stories themselves. Alternatively, sometimes we remember more about the moment delivered by a story, than the specific details to it— how we felt in listening; where we felt it; and who was telling the story.
But what precisely changes a story from passing to memorable? Below are some of things I think can be useful to remember about how we can better tell our own memorable stories.
Telling children a story is different from writing one that will be read on a page. Because it’s one of the ways that children learn about the world, stories aren’t merely piles of information – they are experiences to unpack.
To tell stories better, we can learn from how children do it when they are comfortable and know they’re being listened to. In such a situation, an article on She Knows explains kids use the full range of their voice and movement to make listeners experience the story they’re telling.
Emotion and expression are aspects of storytelling that help our brains to focus, and allow us to learn from them and remember them better. When we listen to a story that’s being told expressively, our bodies and minds respond as though we are not just hearing the story, but are actually experiencing it.
The language in the best stories is easy to understand, even when they deal with themes that are complex. They work well this way because stories are experiences of change; with our own words and experiences as important starting points, stories take us somewhere else.
To tell stories better to children, it’s important to speak in the language they speak and understand. Our favourite stories as children use different ways to help us remember important elements of the story.
Education Editor Richard Garner in the Independent discusses how repetition in the songs, games and stories is the best way to enrich children’s vocabulary. Phrases like, “I’ll huff and puff and blow your house down!” are also predictable elements in an unpredictable experience, and help in holding kids’ attention.
Good stories might be first-hand experiences the teller actually witnessed as everything unfolded, or may simply refer to moments of universal truth in a different dress. But even when stories are passed on down through generations, the best ones often have an element of how that story relates directly to the teller, told in the teller’s own words. Stories, after all, are owned after being heard.
An article by Inc. about storytelling reveals that whether the stories we tell are factual or not isn’t even the most important thing. What matters is that we believe in what we are saying, and are saying something true. The value in the best stories lie in the kernel of truth that we find in them.
While this demands a lot of effort and thought, it is perhaps this element, more than anything, that makes the stories we tell not just memorable, but worth remembering.
Jones_Works is a writer and teacher who has experience with both pre-school and high school level kids. She’s currently working on a young adult novel after finishing a Masters in Literature.