There is always room for one more story

Kuntal Vora and Vironica Joncy

As our world is adapting and dealing with the COVID-19 outbreak there is more than enough material online to pass our time, with music, viral videos, and gaming apps.  But it’s time to see the most valuable resource inside our walls and the long-forgotten happiness: the humble bedtime story

In these difficult times, children need stories more than ever. They find their friends and world in those stories, they build their hopes and dreams in those stories, and above all, they are engaged and entertained in those stories. Stories allow them to be in their safe space and their own world for a bit.

There are some ways to create a room full of stories. But it’s on us to show our young people the road there. Here, we present to you a great way for digital-detox for yourself and heartfelt moments with your children, in simple, doable ways:

Elderly have always been the best when it comes to stories

I remember the stories that grandmother used to tell me; stories while oiling my hair. I didn’t even see the time flying. She even had her way of sharing stories while she made new snacks- how her mother and  grandmother prepared some of those and the events and celebrations they had around it. For her everything had a story and how interesting her days were. And who better than our grandparents and aunties and uncles to tell a story. Elderly folks enjoy regaling folklore and sharing it with us or even sharing stories from their youth. Usually such stories have a deeper meaning behind them. Sometimes, they  teach us valuable lessons through their stories. Grandparents, elders and parents can drive these spaces to be active and engaging for young ones.

Spiritual texts

How rich our indian culture is- its beaming with story books, myths and spiritual texts. Another great way for telling stories. All the myths and spiritual texts teach us values of kindness, compassion, empathy, honesty and many more. There was a time we derived all our moral stories from these texts. Our comics had them always. These texts also help us to make sense of the world. In times of lockdown they might give us some ways of building resilience- I have heard my grandfather saying that there would be an answer to this difficult situation in these scriptures.

Dear parents it’s time to share your journey with your kids

Our parents usually, in order to impart some knowledge, say “In my childhood, I would get up at 5 am and then walk for 3 km to buy milk….” These are the typical claims that are heard in many households; at least my childhood was filled with such fun statements. The lockdown provides a good time for you- dear parents- to share your childhood experiences and journey with children. I know I would enjoy the stories of my dad and mom.  Also through storytelling, the bond between parents and children grows stronger, which is somehow forgotten or unnoticed in the midst of most engaging mobile phones and video games. Share your school days, your friendships and most importantly your failures and challenges. That might make a good superhero/ine story during their bedtime.

Small little treasures in the house and where it came from

In the house, there is this one item or one memorabilia which has some history related to them. These items sometimes are passed down from generation to generation. It’s always fun and exciting to hear these stories umpteen number of times. When there is nothing much to do, this is the time to get to know those treasures and the history behind them.

Don’t they need to know about Lost and loved?

In my childhood, when I refused to sleep, my mother would always tell me a story of a person whose whole village went into a coma suddenly. He decided that he would walk towards the city to find a cure of the coma. I don’t remember the ending but I remember the excitement to figure out how the man would find the answer to his problem. Such stories keep the mind engaged and the happiness felt when figuring out the ending gets the creative juices flowing and adds to the excitement.  Even stories of our ancestors and may be pets we had long back could be interesting things to share with our young people.

Make it challenging

Another form of storytelling and keeping the younger lot entertained during the time of lockdown is through games. One of the games can be to show a picture of nature to the child. The child needs to make a story seeing the picture. The story needs to have a past, present and future. The characters can be added in this game. Through such games, we are able to engage the child in a constructive way. The children can explore their imagination.Add more elements to the  story as you go along. Let them be story tellers for a change. Us adults can be good listeners. There are various other games like Pictionnary, Jenga, Charades or 20 questions that you can explore together. 

We all have a history

History was not everyone’s favorite subject and somehow we have been living and creating it.Some of us have slept in those history classes. But one thing it does  give children, is the inquisitiveness at every turn and bend. Through storytelling, it can be made interesting. Let the season of lockdown be made colourful with stories of freedom and stories of change. There is a lot of scope for young people to explore and learn later from those history experiences.

While putting these thoughts down, we saw for the first time, the scope of stories in our household. It’s such a great opportunity for us to extract them and cherish them more. It’s actually much more than stories- its love, assurance and strength. 

Storytellers have been doing it since the beginning of time — first with prehistoric drawings scratched into the walls of pyramids and caves and the messages on the great sculptures and monuments and lost civilizations. It then evolved into the -make us wondering- oral tradition, in which stories of history were handed down from one generation to the next for thousands of years. It will even take more time to deep dive into the nuances of Indian traditions of Smriti and Shruti. Today those oral traditions travel with the speed of light, dancing digital information through our technology.

When you think about it, we are all storytellers, no matter where we hail from or what we are now. Some of our stories are told with numbers, others with written words, songs, images and so on. We are all great storytellers and each moment we define the views of the world through the life we live and there we create the world we are in with our perceptions and mindset. Those self-world-views tell us how we are to view ourselves, as well as others. Make no mistake, that is what we want to build in our young people. The power to view themselves and the world.

In the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic  children and parents are bound inside the walls very much more than they used to be in the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic. Most of them might be missing their regular storytelling, read aloud and libraries. But that does not mean storytime stops. We are the storytellers and let’s go back to bed time stories with our kids. 

To help bring the world of stories to our children a number of writers, artists, storytellers are taking to social media to do online reading sessions as well. It’s not just storytellers, even the Indian children’s book community has come together to keep kids entertained and engaged. This led to #ThodaReadingCorona –  a handle to bring in all the story peeps together- , thanks to Roopal Rashomani Kewalya. 

Let’s make stories, share them and read them. It’s not a story if it isn’t told. #ThodaReadingCorona

About the author:

Vironica Joncy, for the last 5 years, has been working in the education and social development sector with a Masters in Social Work from CCS University. She has worked with Teach for India in the capacity of a fellow and School &  Community consultant. Currently, she is working with Khoj Community school, an initiative of the Apni Shala Foundation. Alongside her ongoing Diploma in counseling psychology, she finds herself engaged with movies and books.

Kuntal Vora is a mental health professional who has been working in the field of education since the last 5 years. She enjoys working with children and young adults. She has worked as a school counselor with various CBSE and ICSE board schools in Mumbai. Currently, she is working as an Elementary school counselor with Khoj Community school, an initiative of the Apni Shala Foundation. She holds Masters in Counseling Psychology from SNDT University and advanced diploma in Counseling Psychology from Prafulta, Mumbai. When she isnt working, she enjoys reading books, watching Bollywood movies and having conversations with different people. 

Loved reading this piece? At Apni Shala, we are committed to bring you more SEL-aligned resources during this pandemic. Our work is dependent on generous donations from our supporters. If you found this useful, make a donation here: I would love to donate to Apni Shala.

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