By Jan Pease
“Tell her the candy story!” This from my friend’s son, who was sitting with us while we enjoyed coffee. His mom, in turn, told me about a funny experience involving her son and some special candy from the giant candy store in Jordan, Minnesota.
Telling stories is both an art and a science. There has to be a beginning, middle, and an ending so there’s a bit of structure involved. But connecting through story telling is an art. There has to be that perfect timing that gets you to the ending. If you’re telling a joke, the tension before the punch line has to be just right.
Narrative skills are an important part of early literacy. Telling a story in the correct order helps with later reading comprehension. I found information on a website for parents of children with speech difficulties, www.afasic.org.uk. “Students with poor oral narrative skills have difficulty sharing their experiences with others; difficulty making and keeping friends; dealt with social situations in aggressive, non-verbal ways; were more aggressive and used direct action to solve interpersonal problems. Young offenders had poor oral narrative skills.”
How do children learn narrative skills? They learn these skills as they read books and listen to stories. And they in turn, tell their own story. Here is more information from the afasic website: “The ability to compose a coherent narrative comes before and predicts successful access to literacy at school. Poor oral narrative skills [in] pre-school is a predictor of difficulty with early literacy skills. Oral narrative skills in the early years predict academic progress.”
Do you have memories of long, lazy afternoons spent sitting in lawn chairs, sipping iced tea or lemonade? What were the conversations like? I remember listening to stories. Grandma Emma told the story of how as she was walking home from work, some boys tried to grab her large black purse. She used it as a weapon and bashed them until they ran away from her. Grandma Emma always had a large, black purse. Grandma Pearl told the story about a boy who tried to steal a kiss from her on the buggy ride from church. She slapped his face! He said, “Your sister always lets me have a kiss,” and she retorted, “Well, I’m not my sister!” My dad sometimes brought a bulky, reel to reel tape recorder to Kimball that he alone could work. I’ve heard those dear voices from 50 years ago, and can still recognize them.
What will become of our stories? I’m afraid that our kids will have memories of long, lazy afternoons spent with their parents glued to their phones. It might not be noticeable, because the children, in turn, have their eyes fixed on their own phones.
At my mom’s funeral, her brother, who is now deceased, told one of my favorite stories about mom, who never lied. Ever. Her high school class was learning about nutrition in Home Ec, and had to report on what they’d had for breakfast. Now, my mom had cherry pie for breakfast, her favorite breakfast if there was pie in the house. (Grandma Pearl was an excellent pie maker so there was usually pie in the house.) Mom didn’t want to admit having pie for breakfast, so she said, with a poker face, “an egg, 1 piece of toast, and coffee.”
Tell those stories. Use those phones to make a video of grandma telling a story. Listen as your children tell you stories. And treasure those stories.
Litchfield Library invites you to “Ralph’s World,” a family concert, which will be presented at the library Friday, June 29th at 10:00. See you at the library!