More on the power of stories

This article in the New York Times explores the power of stories. Researchers have explored the impact of stories on the human brain. Fresh descriptions of smells, textures and movement can be just as vivid as real-life experiences.

Your Brain on Fiction by Annie Murphy Paul, Sunday Review, The New York Times, March 17, 2012

The technological advantages of a book

grandparents and grandson reading book together
In today’s world of mobile devices and e-books, it can be easy to be wowed by all things new and to lose sight of the unique benefits of a technology that has been in place since the invention of the printing press in the 1400s. Yes, I’m talking about the book.

A book has heft. You can take it anywhere. It never runs out of batteries. Pages load instantly. You never need to give it a re-boot. A book slows time down. Just by opening its covers, you start to pay attention.

But perhaps the greatest advantages of all are that a book is both self-paced and expandable. It grows with imagination. Let me explain. Consider one of the best uses of a book, which is telling stories to children.

Now think of what might happen if the stories being read were the personal stories of your family. The starting point of any good story is for the reader to identify with the characters. Even when we don’t fit perfectly within the thing called our family, we do identify with its members and we do identify with their stories. That is because family stories are our most valuable inheritance. When you share these stories with the next generation of children, you start a conversation. A sentence or photo provokes questions.

Because the book is self-paced, you can stop reading and talk. Because the book is expandable, you can add to the words on the page. It’s impossible to include all of your family stories in a single book. After all, we’re talking about lifetimes. This is okay. All you really need to do is start a conversation and conversations are what a book does best.

The importance of saving your life story

Old classic library with books on table

When an old man dies, a library burns to the ground.” – Amadou Hampâté Bâ

Everything we care about, everything we want to remember, we shape into a story. Spiritual practices are shared through stories and so are current events. When we want to be entertained or inspired, we seek out stories in movies and books.

The moments of our everyday lives are saved in stories too. The day we were born, our first job, falling in love–we tell these stories over and over again. The ones that move us most involve hardship or challenge, such as surviving cancer or building a successful business.

Most of the time we’d rather not broadcast these personal stories. Parts of our personality, the matters we hold most dear, are kept safe within these stories. We share these stories only with the people we love because in sharing them we share ourselves.

The stories grow more valuable the older we become. Perhaps that’s because the older stories show how much our lives have changed. If these stories aren’t written down, they can be lost when the people telling them are no longer around.

What if you put these moments into a book? They would be there not only for present generations, but for generations to come. At Story Preserve, that’s what we do. We help families capture their most memorable stories in print so they can be shared amongst the ones they love.

Family stories enhance self-esteem in teens

Family serving Christmas dinner

The best family talks happen at the dinner table. You chat about your day at work or school. You recount moments you’ve enjoyed together, like a family canoe trip or playing laser tag all afternoon.

As parents, you love to tell your children about your life. You talk about their grandparents and other relatives too. Some of the stories are about pleasant experiences, but the stories your children like best often have an element of challenge.

Teens like to hear about how their parents and other relatives made mistakes, faced difficult situations, and managed to pull through. It helps them figure out who they are and it makes them more resilient.

A group of psychologists at Emory University studied the impact family stories have on teens. They found that teens who know their family stories have higher self-esteem and feel in control of their lives. If they know how their parents met, where their grandparents were born, and other details about their family’s past, teens are less likely to experience depression.

Fivush, R., Duke, M, & Bohanek, J. (2010). Do you know … the power of family history in adolescent identity and well-being. Atlanta, Georgia: Emory University.