I admire my older brother.
Not only is he a patient and kind father to his three boys, he also has a fantastic bedtime tradition of storytelling. On various vacations, I have seen his boys beg for a bedtime story, and then Ryan will cuddle in their room and continue their saga adventure from previous nights. No wonder my nephews have exciting imaginations!
Recently I had the opportunity review a book made specifically to help parents excel at bedtime stories. Written by John Olive, the award-winning playwright and author, Tell Me a Story in the Dark teaches parents about the importance of telling stories and offers helpful hints for a successful experience.
As a counselor, I appreciate the author's emphasis on the powerful bond you can create with your children through storytelling. He describes how a bedtime story allows you to cuddle, to teach, and to inspire your children. Olive explains that he does not tell a story every single night, but he uses the opportunity to tell a story as a bonding moment to reward (or encourage) helpful behavior at home. Storytelling is a special treat!
When I have told stories in the past, I have struggled to expand my plot beyond "a princess was walking in the forest. . . and she walked . . and walked . . and she saw a tree. . . " No wonder the kids thought my stories were lame. I am grateful that Olive shared his playwright expertise in this book. He suggests plot outlines to help a parent tell a fantastic story based on age, interests, and time. He also teaches how to "set the stage" through bedtime story rules: a dark room, pajamas on, head stays on pillow, and more. Those rules help your child focus on the story and be lulled to sleep. He advises that lulling your child to sleep should be a main priority of bedtime stories anyways.
Tell Me a Story in the Dark offers examples from all sorts of myths, fables, actual history, religion, and made up stories. These examples got my creative juices flowing, and I was excited to start forming a bedtime story. Ironically, when I cuddled up with my daughter the story still began with a princess, but I was ready to use Olive's advice about elaborating on the stone walls of the princess' room, the rain pinging against the window, and the chill in the wet castle. I felt more confidence about our imaginative time together.
Another fantastic part of the book was his discussion about how stories can help children navigate problems. I reminisced about my counseling lessons in narrative therapy as I read his words. He eloquently described how stories portray a powerful message that sometimes simply telling your child does not wholly convey. For example, if your child is struggling as the "new kid in school," then you could tell a story about a turtle who moved to a new ocean and made new friends. Olive teaches parents how to make a story personal without being super obvious. Previously I wrote about how children learn through play here
; children also feel more comfortable using metaphors. Children will have an easier time talking about which actions and thoughts will help the turtle find happiness than trying to analyze their own selves. I appreciate that Tell Me a Story in the Dark
helps parents use this technique to their advantage. What a helpful way to bond with and teach your child!
From developing a larger vocabulary to enhancing problem solving skills to strengthening family bonds, the benefits of storytelling are numerous. Tell Me a Story in the Dark is a simple and powerful guide for parents. I am excited to follow in the footsteps of my older brother (and John Olive) and create lasting memories of love and support with my kiddos. I am also excited to allow my imagination to soar again as I prepare for bedtime stories.
I hope your family finds this book helpful as well.
Labels: Happy Tidbits, Parenting