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A Word from Pat Scales

Family Stories

November 01, 2011

Family Stories Month is celebrated each November. This is an especially good time for teachers and librarians to encourage children and teenagers to connect to their family history through story. November 27 is designated as a National Day of Listening. Students and patrons should be engaged in activities that help them make the connection between listening and the place of story in our lives. Try the following activities:

  • Ask students or patrons to bring a photo from a family vacation/event and prepare a story about the occasion to tell to the group. Encourage them to use description and expression.
  • Read aloud Stitchin’ and Pullin’: A Gee’s Bend Quilt by Patricia C. McKissack & illus. by Cozbi A. Cabrera. How do the quilts reflect family stories? Ask readers to find out if there are quilts in their families that tell a story. Perhaps the quilts are pieced with fabrics from significant clothing like baby garments.
  • Explain the concept of oral history. Then encourage students to record an older family member telling a story from their childhood. Then ask them to make a quilt square that best symbolizes the story told by their family member. If piecing a quilt isn’t possible, allow them to design the square using paper.
  • Ask readers to interview 4 or 5 neighbors or adult friends of different ages about their memories of a historic national event. How did it impact their personal lives? Some may relate events of 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, the day Kennedy was assassinated, the Challenger explosion, etc. Is there something special about the personal memory that is worthy of documentation? Relate the personal parts of the stories to the group.
  • Discuss the qualities of good storytelling. Ask readers to find a story that has been handed down through the ages and prepare to tell it to another class or group. Suggest the following books from Random House:
  • Readers enjoy choral reading, and this is a good way to celebrate National Day of Listening. Divide the class or large groups into small groups and ask them to select a favorite poem to perform as a choral reading. Suggestions from Random House include:
  • Readers may also want to have fun with a favorite Dr. Seuss story and prepare it as a Rap and perform it for another group.
  • Introduce books that have a strong family connection in the story. Have students read one book and write a letter that the main character may write to someone in their family about an important event in the story and how the event impacts them. Suggestions from Random House include:
  • Finally, encourage families to read together by asking readers to suggest stories to their parents to read aloud during the month of November. Ask them to pick novels with themes of family. Suggestions from Random House include:

You may email me at pscales@bellsouth.net.