Friday, March 10, 2017

Preserving and Sharing Family Stories through Storybooks

Preserving and sharing family stories is a big deal.  That's because family stories give us a sense of purpose and belonging.  Children (including teenagers) develop a stronger sense of identity and overall have higher self-esteem when they know family stories.  In fact, hearing family stories actually helps children tell richer narratives themselves!  Preserving family stories inspires the person doing the preserving, of course, but it also benefits anybody who hears the story.

Storytelling affects our brains in a different way than just facts.  In {this article}, author Rachel Gillette wrote that when we read a story, the language parts of our brains light up, but so do any other parts of the brain that we would be using if we were actually experiencing what we're reading about!  (Talk about literally preserving memories!) 

We love a good story.  And we love it even more when it's OUR story.  Do you know how your grandma and grandpa met?  Do you know what hard times your mom experienced and how she overcame them?  Where did your ancestors come from?  What brought them here?  Are there stories of perseverance or faith or humor in your family?  Do your kids know what you were like as a 10-year-old?   What would these stories mean to you and to your family?

One way to preserve and share family stories is through storybooks.  I'm not talking about "photobooks."  Those are different.  Most of those have a place where you can throw in a caption here and there.  

No, I'm talking about a storybook, a place where you can actually tell Grandma and Grandpa's love story or and adoption story or the survival story of your family member with an illness, a place where you can preserve all the photos from one year in one book and tell the stories of the photos at the same time.  

This is family history--YOUR family's history--happening a century ago and happening last year.

We're not preserving our stories for some unknown future date.  Children and grandchildren will certainly benefit from them in the future.  But our stories are for NOW.  They connect us now.  They bring people together now.  They foster understanding and appreciation now.  They increase happiness now by giving us opportunities to reflect on good times and put bad times into perspective.

I remember reading my great-grandmother's story quite a few years ago.  She had a rough first marriage, saved up money over a period of months so she could run away with her three little boys (like "three-under-the-age-of-4" little) to a place she'd never been before, where she didn't know anyone. When she made it there, she got really sick and was hospitalized.  Alone.  

I remember reading her story and thinking, "Oh my gosh.  I have no problems at all." Family stories truly do give appreciation and perspective.  They make a difference.  And she was quite a lady.  I was glad to get to know her better even though she'd already passed on.

You could focus on one person's life, a couple's life, a family's life, or even the love stories of several generations.  Including 
photos and stories which really make a person you never knew into someone real whose life can make a difference in yours.
One thing I'm serious about is preserving family stories in an accessible and high-quality way.  That's where those hardbound books I showed you earlier come in.  Something tangible that people can physically touch and hold means so much more than a PDF file, and is so much more accessible.  And when you put something in a book, you want it to last and be passed down to another generation.  

These books I'm recommending are published with the highest quality binding in the industry and highest quality papers and ink.  They're intended to be heirlooms.  Like family stories should be. 

Don't worry about the HOW of telling the story--there are links to lots of storytelling prompts here.  

This is a simple platform for creating a storybook, and the printed product is heirloom-quality!  I show you the basics in about 5 minutes.

So the next time you think about "family history" as being walking around graves looking for names and dates, remember that family history really means the story of your family.  Yes, that can be found on headstones with names and dates, but it's really found when you write and collect and preserve someone's STORY.

Storybooks are an important and meaningful way to preserve a family story, but there are some other ways, too, so we'll look at some more ideas this month on #familyhistoryfriday.

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This post first appeared on March 10, 2017, at by Jennifer Wise.
Find the other posts of this weekly series by clicking on the #familyhistoryfriday hashtag at the bottom of each post.


  1. We all need to find time to do this. Thanks so much for linking up at the Unlimited Link Party 92. Shared.


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