Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Telling stories to the kids

There is an interesting thread on the APG list concerning the lack of knowledge of the younger generations about the pop culture icons of the older generations (Lucy and Ethel, Davy Crockett, Kennedy and Nixon, etc.). The discussion quickly morphed into lamentations that, more importantly, the younger generations don't receive a history education either, and what can we do about it. Alas, hasn't it always been this way? I remember hearing my grandmother scolding the younger generation (me and my brothers) because we didn't want to sit and talk if Davy Crockett or Hopalong Cassidy was on TV.

Frankly, the best thing for each of us that does family history research or loves history is to teach the younger generations about their ancestry, collect stories and artifacts to share with them, and then present it in a graphic or visual manner that will keep their attention for some time. Getting away from the pop culture - by going for rides or walks, by visiting nature or historical sites - with the grandkids and spending one-on-one time with them when they are young seems like the best way to build their interest in the history of the family or the locality or the country.

My 3-year old grandson wants to hear stories. I try to tell two minute stories about my life or of my ancestors (hiding the goodies from the British, serving in the militia, driving across the country, seeing the President, going to the cemetery, coming on the Mayflower, playing ball at school, etc.). It really doesn't matter what the topic is - the best thing is to spend the time with him and tell him things that he might remember. What he will remember is that you told stories. When he is 5, 10, 15 or even 20 he will want to hear more from Grandpa, and he will be receptive to longer stories and family history. The problem, of course, is living long enough to get to that point in time, and being able to remember everything! That's why we write books. In the future, I think we will all make videos about ancestors and locations and history, and share them on DVDs to play in the car or at bedtime - probably great sleep inducers.

1 comment:

Jude said...

I started a memoirs blog on Yahoo 360, which is open only to my kids. They kept asking me to write down my life stories, so that's where I'm doing it. I don't consider myself a great storyteller, because I knew truly great storytellers--my dad and my grandmother--but my kids like my stories.

The biggest advantage to writing the stories on a blog is that if something isn't clear, they can ask for clarification, which sometimes leads to another blog post. It's also great to randomly hop from one age to another without worrying about the order. Sometimes I write about ancestors, sometimes my childhood, sometimes interesting events from my adult life. By writing the stories, I also add background detail that I didn't add when I told the stories orally.