How to Use Children's Books to share Family Stories
This is one of those week's when sentiment has crept in and taken over.
The first week in April is the anniversary of the passing of two of my grandparents so I always find myself thinking more about them and family at this time of the year.
And it just so happens that I've been reviewing books for our Picture Book of the Day series on Instagram (we have a great group of Kid Lit bloggers who share book recommendations if you're ever looking for some!)
The author of the story we featured this week shared that she "... use(s) bits of my great-grandmother's passport from Lithuania in almost every painting"
Those things that are left to us when people pass on -- family heirlooms, special momentoes and stories.
My grandfather's family was also from Lithuania so this immediately caught my attention.
What bits do I have from him?
And which of those bits have I shared with my kids?
So I immediately started digging through some of my keepsake boxes and books as I thought about the fact that I should be sharing these bits and family stories with my kids more often.
How to Use Children's Books to share Family Stories
It's surprising what a book can trigger, isn't it?
One minute, you're enjoying some beautiful illustrations and the next, you're taking a trip down memory lane to share about your childhood or experiences.
The book that inspired me this week is called The Whisper (I'm including affiliate links for the books we reference in case you' like to check them out). It's a gorgeously illustrated story about a girl who finds a book with no words and she must use her imagination to tell the story.
But as I shared earlier, it wasn't even the book that inspired me -- it was the author's note about her great-grandmother's passport.
Once you start digging, I'll bet you'll be surprised at what 'bits' you find and don't find that share your family's history.
It's funny -- I have quite a few old photographs from my Nan's side of the family but I don't have one picture of my Poppy when he was younger. That alone tells it's own story.
And seeing what I do have from cherished loved ones makes me think about what items I would leave to my grandkids.
Sharing Family Stories with Kids
Unlike many of our kids activity projects , this post doesn't include any set of directions or a 'project material list' because it wil be different for every family.
The goal is just this -- to make time to share your family's stories.
It may be during family gatherings or over dinners.
There might be a story connected to some of your favorite family recipes.
Many times, a story comes to us during special holidays or celebrations.
And sometimes a story may creep in when you're reading one of your favorite childhood books.
For example, anytime I read Are You My Mother? , I tell the story about my 2 year old memorizing the book and 'reading' it to his grandmother.
And I love to pull out my copy of My Book About Me and compare it to my kids' copies of the same book! I completed mine when I was 7 years old and loved it so much that I bought a copy for each of my kids for their 7th birthdays. I'm hoping this idea turns into a family tradition for each generation and we'll have a whole set of them to pass along.
The photo of our family 'bits' is meant to inspire you to think about items you may have that will encourage a story session.
And if you'll permit me, I'd like to share the stories behind a few of our family 'bits':
The Necklace was given to me by my Nan (maternal grandmother). It was a gift to her from her best friend when she was a teenager (so it's probably more than 70 years old). It's actualy a locket of types and holds small photos of five children -- none of which are related to us which makes it a funny story!
You see, my grandmother would tell me that she always wanted to put photos of her family in the locket but photos were very expensive to come by when she was younger. So she just wore the locket as is and passed down the story of where it came from. Our kids love to hold it and open the locket -- they've never seen a piece of jewelry like this one.
The Marriage Service book is also special -- it was the book my Nan & Poppy used when they eloped. Nan was Catholic and Poppy was Jewish. Neither of their families approved of their engagement (this was back in the 1930's) so they traveled to Virginia to get married. They brought along two friends who acted as witnesses. And as you might expect, neither of their families were very happy when they returned home.
This is a story I like to pass down to my kids because it gives them a peek to what life was like for their great-grandparents and gives them an appreciation of how different it is to be raised in a family who is accepting of anyone no matter their religious beliefs.
And the Passport is actually my husband's from years ago but it has such a special story. You see, both of our kids have taken Spanish in school which led my husband to share that he learned Spanish during a summer he spent in Mexico when he was about 10 years old. He's told us about the family he lived who had a boy his age -- how they became friends and some of the fun things they experienced together.
One day, my then 10-year-old asked him "Where is he now?" in reference to the friend.
"Well, I'm not sure" was my husband's reply, "we've lost touch."
My astute child suggested that we look on Facebook to see if we can find him -- and lo' and behold, we did! And now my husband's story about traveling abroad has become a next-generation story about helping Dad to find an old friend.
So pull out those 'bits' and items -- old documents, letters, heirlooms and other family treasures!
Let the kids see and touch them when you tell a story. Children will remember more when they can experience the story by hearing, touching and seeing items that will remind them of it's telling.
There's a wonderful quote from Mitch Albom --
"But there's a story behind everything.
How a picture got on a wall.
How a scar got on your face.
Sometimes the stories are simple, and sometimes they are hard and heartbreaking.
But behind all your stories is always your mother's story, because hers is where yours begin."
The next time you're reading a book to your kids & are reminded of a family story, be sure to tell it!
MORE FAMILY ACTIVITIES