Thursday, September 19th, 2019

Family Stories

November is “Family Stories Month”. This is a wonderful opportunity to engage kids in reading and writing activities… and you never know when or how it might pay off!  My mother and I co-wrote the first draft of our picture book Simeon’s Gift when I was in elementary school. Some thirty-something years later, we rewrote it, published it, and then developed it into a stage musical and a symphonic event.

A great way to engage kids in family stories is to promote journaling. Begin by encouraging them to keep a journal during a family trip, special event or over a vacation. Journals can double as scrapbooks, and can be enhanced with pieces of memorabilia, photos, drawings, etc. Provide your child with some books about writing or that are told in journal format for inspiration (such as Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Amelia’s Notebook, Nothing Ever Happens on 90th Street, and Zoe Sophia’s Scrapbook, for starters). Invite them to choose the kind of journal they would be inspired to write in—leathery and grainy, bejeweled, with a lock, lined versus plain paper, etc.  Then, let their natural creativity lead the way.

Another idea is to explore family history, by creating a family tree and/or writing a biography of one or more family members.  Help your child “interview” a family member (grandparents can be especially helpful and willing in this regard), look up family records in local libraries and town archives, or simply take advantage of the many online genealogy services that exist today. Together you can create a genealogical chart, draw a family tree, or go as far as transcribing the interviews and compiling a book of your family’s history, complete with photographs or illustrations. Biographies can also be created honoring friends or other family members, or the history of your house, street, neighborhood, or community.  Take it a step further and publish it through one of the many print on demand services like or  (Bonus: This makes a wonderful and unique gift for family members of all ages!)

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3 Responses to “Family Stories”
  1. Diane says:

    Gosh Emma, this is an interesting post for me.
    Since my husbands’ niece was eight years old, she has been winging her way, (on her own) from Australia to New Zealand (a three hour flight) every year for a 10day holiday with her favourite Aunt and Uncle. I love organising, outings, games, events etc to fill her time with us which can include, snow skiing, swiming, para sailing, rock climbing, mini golf, horse riding, etc… When ever she comes our first day is always spent shopping, and she loves to pick out a scrapbook and coloured pens, stickers etc. After each eventful day we would print off photos taken, and she would stick them into her scrapbook. What I have loved watching develop over the years, is her enthusiasm in not only making her scrapbook a work of art (once decorated in a frame of seashells) but her ability to be so descriptive, with emotion in her stories, and taking great pains with detail. Often when waiting for her flight home at the airport, she would proudly read us her story. This had mearly started out as just something she could take back to her parents and produce at her “show and tell” at school,(she is now thirteen years old). Every year she would also go home with another addition of the Julie Andrews Collection under her arm, and often emailed me what chapter she was up to. Her favourites are Mandy and Great American Musical.
    Now family history, and biographies are ideas I had not thought of, and she would certainly relish the idea of being the interviewer. What a wonderful idea to get something like that published.
    Thankyou Emma for your ideas, I can see us having a lot more interesting times ahead with our lovely niece.

  2. AIleen Beato says:

    Hi Emma,

    This is indeed very inspiring. I just remembered my granddaugther. She is three years old now. But i started reading her books when she was 2 years old. and now, I know fully well that she is developing her interests in books. In fact, whenever we’re together I would ask her to say some short stories for (and as early as her age, she can imagine things put her imagination in words, though, sometimes she just copies some scene of the stories that I told her. 😀 )

    Oh well, I really wish I can guide her up to her younger years and I really do hope she’ll find it interesting to put her imagination into writings when she grows up. 😀


  3. Beth says:

    Emma — I so love the family history ideas you’ve shared. I wish you’d been around to suggest the “interviewing the grandparents” idea when I was growing up! (That would have been tricky… although I’m only 6 years older than you, your maternal grandmother was born 3 years before my DAD! So my grandparents were quite a bit older.) There are so many things that I think of now that I wish I’d asked my grandparents *then*. When I was a child, I tended to think my grandparents would simply always be there, then I became a teenager and was too impatient to listen to the stories… and then suddenly it was too late.

    Although in my family most of my generation are now the grandparent generation, I’m still going to tell them about this idea — maybe they can encourage their grandkids to write by sharing some of their stories. I’ll also tell them what Diane does with her niece — I think that, too, is a great idea!

    Your blog posts have really been resonating with me lately — keep them coming!

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