Reading to Your Children: The Path to Healthy Kids

Salar Ahmed Khan, MD, MBA

Storytelling is a vehicle for parents to bond with their children, while instilling values and character traits. Making time for a 15 minute story is a great way to directly connect with your children.

Storytelling is a tradition as old as human history. The stories of Aesop may come to mind. The goals of those tales have often been to teach a moral lesson and to pass down wisdom. It is a dialogue carried from the past and echoed into the future. And rather than simply repeating traditions and folklore of old, tell a story that relates to you in some way. In other words, relate something that is personally meaningful. When you tell the story to your kids, they will sense your own enthusiasm and connection. This formula will bring you all closer together. It's also time to unplug gadgets and engage the imagination. 

Children are imbued with curiosity, the gateway to critical thinking. An effective story explores distant worlds and connects with different characters, but similar to us all, using language to paint a vivid picture. Research by Dr. Lee et al. has shown that telling classic stories such as George Washington and the Cherry Tree could instill good moral practices, like telling the truth, in children. As parents, our job is to nurture these traits. However, we are often at the mercy of time, since we have so much to do.

From your storytelling, many kids learn to embrace moral values, such as compassion, honesty, and courage, which have the power of advancing young minds. Now, the question is: What stories should we tell and how should we narrate them? Stories don’t have to be complicated. If you can design a story from your own experiences, or even modify a story you heard while growing up, that is sufficient. The most important thing is to be able to have fun. Parents should tell these stories on a regular basis bedtime, at least until they are 10 years of age. Even though a story can be found and read at the click of a button on the Internet, the social and bonding experience of sharing a story with your children is irreplaceable.

Story time is a special time for parents and children because it is fun for everyone. It helps your child develop listening skills and gets your undivided attention, a rarity in today’s day and age. As long as the storyteller is willing to weave stories, a child will always be ready to hear the simplest of them, traversing unforeseen destinations that only the imagination can capture.