The Benefits of Family Stories

If you want your children to be smart, tell them stories. If you want them to be brilliant, tell them more stories.

Albert Einstein

by Sanuja Bopitiya, Toddler Teacher

Most parents know the benefits of reading stories from books with their young children. Reading books with children on a daily basis advances their language skills, extends their learning about the world, and helps their own reading later in school. Sitting down to read with your child from a young age can instill a lifelong love of books. Reading books with your children is clearly a good idea, so is sharing tales from the past.

Family Stories are Universal

Storytelling is the oldest form of teaching. Our personal story and the stories we tell ourselves, about the world hold immense power in all of our lives. Throughout history, family tradition, culture and memories have been passed down through the art of storytelling. These oral histories help new generations connect to their history, develop environmental context and form identity. While the ways that we tell stories has evolved over time—thanks to electronic devices—the power of the personal and family story remains. 

Best of all, unlike books, family stories are always free and completely portable. You don’t even need to have the lights on to share with your child a story about your day, about their day, about your childhood or their grandparents. Family stories can continue to be part of a parent’s daily interactions with their children into adolescence, long past the age of the bedtime story.

Narrators at Every Age

Oral storytelling has been part of human existence for millennia. Toddlers start telling primitive tales from nearly as soon as they can speak. They begin with simple sentences about past experiences such as, “cookie all gone.” Adults quickly build on these baby narratives, “What happened to your cookie? You ate it!” By age three or four, most children can tell a relatively sensible story of a past experience that a naïve listener will (mostly) understand. By the time they are in school, children will regale a sympathetic adult with highly detailed stories about events of great importance to them. All families have stories to tell, regardless of their culture or their circumstances.

Of course, not all of these stories are idyllic ones. Children and adolescents can learn a great deal from life’s more difficult moments—as long as those lessons are shared in a way that is sensitive to the child’s level of understanding, and as long as something good is gleaned from the experience.

Family stories can be told nearly anywhere… They can inspire us, protect us, and bind us to others… Remember that our children may have them for a lifetime.

Elaine Reese


  • Importance of Storytelling in Child Development by Yash Patel
  • What Children Learn from Hearing Family Stories by Elaine Reese