Natalie’s Monday post, “Story Connections” got me thinking about the value of different forms of storytelling. Other than around the dinner table, the art of verbal storytelling seems to be dying out. But I’m fortunate enough to say that’s not the case at my child’s school–where they often resurrect the best of the past and by doing so, are considered “cutting edge.” In their monthly Roots and Wings program, a storyteller regales the audience with tales from his or her life, often with a foreign culture bent. Or special guests might recreate folk tales to entertain and teach the children. My daughter almost always repeats the stories to me as soon as she walks in the door. Another reason I love this program is because it honors the 25 percent of kids who are “auditory learners,” which means they learn best by hearing their education.
This led me to think about fiction storytelling and how it impacts the lives of its readers. Why do kids read? Here are some ideas that come to mind:
1) Boredom: Kids might read because they have nothing else that excites them at the moment.
2) To compensate for an occasional lackluster life: Not old enough to drive, being under parental control, and having to go to school all day and then come home and do homework, is, essentially, limiting. Real life often pales in comparison to fiction, and kids can live vicariously through the lives of their favorite characters.
3) Escape: One sure way to get the parents to leave you alone is to announce, “I’m reading a book right now.” It’s an easy way to escape to your room for a few hours of uninterrupted alone time.
4) Connection to others: We are all so busy that it seems difficult to make real connections sometimes. Often, our interactions are through email, texting, and Facebook, rather than old-fashioned person-to-person visits. In Natalie’s post she says this about the stories her father tells: “…it’s in the telling that we feel what he feels; it’s the telling that connects us.” A book provides an instant sense of connection between the reader and the character because it offers a tour through the thoughts and emotions of someone outside of ourselves.
Children and teenagers learn many life lessons through books. A shy reader can learn all about the extrovert’s world simply by turning the pages. There’s an entire wealth of life lessons and themes to explore through literature, even if the reader hasn’t lived through the same experiences first hand.
To me, this brings home the importance of being a writer. As storytellers, we owe it to our readers to treat our themes, messages, and characters with care and maturity.