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Stories at the Table

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When my kids were in the house, it was a regular part of dinner to go around the table and say one thing about the day. It got us started in conversation, and it didn't stop.  Its where my kids learned about who I was, and who my wife was, and who they were, too.

As a storyteller, I've learned over the years that we use stories to give meaning to things - that's how humans work. Stories tell us where we come from, and help us think about where we're going. While the media - movies, TV, books, even storytelling recordings, by, um, yours truly - is a source for many stories, it's important to remember that some of the most important stories a kid will hear are personal and family stories from those around them. It's family stories that ground a young person in the world - hearing a story from someone in your life has much more resonance than something you got off a screen from someone who doesn't know you.

The best place for those stories is over food at the family dinner table. Your sharing of the story about the time you got in trouble, or the first time you did anything (rode a bike, took a plane trip, broke your arm), and the story your kid tells back about something that happened to them that day, is at the very heart of culture. That seems so ridiculously simple it's hard to believe it makes a difference. But simple things count. The proof of that is the study from several years ago (I can't find the citation, but trust me, will you? I have it somewhere!) that searched for common threads in the lives of National Merit Scholars; the only consistent element in all of their lives was that they regularly ate dinner with their families.

You could call it the classroom of the dinner table. No tests. No curriculum. Just stories.

My friend Donald Davis, a great storyteller, has a small gem of a book to help you think about your family stories - Telling Your Own Stories.

Remember, though, that telling stories is what humans do, so you don't need to really learn about it. You just need to do it.


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Do you allow your children to watch TV or play on the computer before doing their homework?