All of us are inspired by the things we encounter either by experiencing something or by reading. Louise Rosenblatt, a widely known professor and scholar in literature, articulated that we understand ourselves through the lives of characters that we read about in stories. We see a movie and
develop a liking for the characters in it. We embody their style, speak their dialogues and try to develop the same personality traits.
Similarly, if you read a book, you highlight your favourite quotes or excerpts to use them whenever you like. So when you are reading stories like fairy tales, adventure, action or of superheroes, it is likely that you also dream of fighting evil forces like your favourite superheroes, imagine yourself living in beautiful castles like your beloved princesses and fight the villains like a brave knight. Isn’t that what you think and fantasise about, the places and worlds you read in these books?
Whether you agree or not, there is no denying that anyone can become inspired by stories because stories leave unforgettable impressions on our minds; they inspire values and influence our hobbies and behaviours. From the very beginning of this earth, every single culture left wonderful stories that have stayed on for generations.
Have you ever wondered why you listen so keenly to the stories that your grandmother and grandfather tell you? All your attention is focused on the concoctions of words coming out of their mouths, the stories of wisdom and wit, war and peace, good and evil, fairy tales and horror.
J.K. Rowling has said, “I will defend the importance of bedtime stories to my last gasp.”
I remember when I was a kid, there were some stories that my nani and dadi used to tell me. Those stories mesmerised me for a very long time and I lived in them. I still remember one such story my nani used to tell me, about ghosts in the stairs of her house. I became so obsessed with the words and the setting she created while telling the story.
“If you want your children to be smart, tell them stories. If you want them to be brilliant, tell them more stories.”— Albert Einstein
Then there were pre-partition stories and the days of war that my dadi narrated to us. I just loved listening to those stories by laying down with her every night and asked her to tell me one of the stories again.
Those stories made my little world of imagination so strong and I craved for more and more stories. This, ultimately gave birth to storytelling session with my cousins. Every now and then, we started meeting and telling each other stories and we shared our impressions on that. Seeing this, my dad bought me a lot of short story books and I spent hours reading those in one go. I learned about different cultures around the world. I acquired knowledge about the history of my country, my people and everything happening around me.
Most importantly, parents and grandparents who read stories to children created a bond between them and their children, which is forever associated with them. I always associate my grandparents as the people who read and told me bedtime stories and I still have that connection to them and cherish all the memories. This also made communication with them easier and we were able to talk about so many things that we would otherwise have not had the chance to do.
So why is it important for children to be introduced to the world of storytelling?
In my opinion, exposure to books and stories opens up one’s mind and increases knowledge, because stories convey values, beliefs, attitudes and norms. A child from the very young age learns to behave, think and act through different stories they hear or listen.
Development of imagination
The most important and fundamental benefit of stories is the ‘development of imagination’. Stories break the confines of limited thinking and introduce us to the worlds different from our own cultures, norms and surroundings. Stories tell about skies, lands, waters, planets, myths, time travel, wizards and fairies.
“The human species thinks in metaphors and learns through stories.”— Mary Catherine Bateson
We start learning about various things happening in the stories and ask questions, form opinions and views. We learn the difference between truth and fiction, right and the wrong.
We learn the art of divergent thinking through exploring and experiencing different possibilities in storybooks. We start having our opinion and generate several possible solutions and morals in the stories rather than thinking in a single direction. This way we develop understanding our own thoughts, emotions and feelings.
Stories help develop empathy
Stories help develop empathy the ability to understand and share the feelings of others, because while reading, we often start to have a liking towards a character, and start living their life in that specific moment and feel their emotions too. Connecting to all the action and adventure, we imagine ourselves in place of the main character and formulate decisions and ideas. When the character in our story is sad, we feel sad too and when they are happy, our heart feels happy too.
Intellectual perspectives and learning opportunities
Reading stories help build intellectual perspectives and learning opportunities. When we read stories from around the world, we learn new perspectives that both extend beyond and also connect with our local contexts. Stories are a great way to introduce new words and ideas into our language starting with picture books from the very young age, to the complex novels of teenagers. We learn about simple concepts and get knowledge that can be useful to us in school, at home and in our everyday life.
We can so easily improve our language and vocabulary as we get a sense of how to use different words and sentences and also how to converse using those words and sentences.
It is proven that storytelling initiates writing because the young minds will have so many ideas bursting in them that they will want to write them down and tell their stories to the world.
The passion in reading stories
As I said earlier that I started having a keen interest in reading that I, along with my cousins, read and told each other stories, this passion never stopped but grew even more; so in school also, me and my closest friend used to exchange stacks of books with each other after we had read those. We then had discussions and exchanged our ideas about those books.
This exchange of conversation and ideas was a whole new learning opportunity on its own, and this way I discovered book clubs and fandoms related to different novel series and books. So it is absolutely correct that reading also helps children make intellectual friends. Friends who encourage reading, exchange their ideas and share knowledge.
Reading stories or any other kind of book should be made a daily habit because this habit nourishes and teaches. Nothing sticks better in the head than a story as stories can express the most complicated ideas in easy and wonderful ways.
Published in Dawn, Young World, November 14th, 2020