Storytelling and Life Lessons: Teaching Moral Themes with Story Books
All the history books and in every culture around the world, storytelling is and has been used as a technique for teaching children very early on about the importance of morals and ethics.
Bedtime stories for kids have been a way to teach even the youngest of children about acceptable social norms, moral ways of behaving and the association between cause and effect since humans were able to draw on cave walls.
Of course, storytelling serves many other purposes as well.
These can include getting kids interested in literacy and educating children about family and cultural history and beliefs.
Children’s stories with morals then can serve multiple purposes and the life lessons children are able to glean from these tales will stick with them throughout their lives. What kids learn in their formative years have a lasting effect and instilling proper behaviors in beliefs in your children when they are young helps stage them for success later in life.
Storytelling and Morals
Children’s stories can be very open about the fact that they are teaching an important life lesson. Equally, the moral of the story may be buried in the storyline itself. Books of both varieties can be very useful in teaching life lessons to children and parents often decide to use storytelling techniques which include both styles of writing.
Traditional Life Lessons
Classic life lessons like treating people equally, appreciating what you have, and sharing with others are common themes in classic children’s literature and many contemporary children’s stories. A few examples of newer books which teach kids lasting life lessons include:
How full is your bucket? by Tom Rath and Maurie Manning. This best selling book focuses around the idea of how what we do, every day, affects those around us and how our behaviours and attitudes can impact the feelings of those around us. Similarly it can also help children understand how the behaviours and attitudes of those around them can influence too. Checkout this article on psychcentral if you’re interested in how and when children develop empathy.
For slightly older kids (I’d say five and upwards) The Juice Box Bully: Empowering Kids to Stand Up For Others by Maria Dismondy is a fantastic story about a new boy at school who’s trying to carve himself a space by being a bit of bully and how the rest of the class take a kind, but firm promise to help him to become a nice and kind member of the class. It takes the issue of bullying and instead of tackling the bully, it’s actually tackling the apathy and bystander effect and helps children learn to help eachother even if they possibly don’t deserve it.
Classic children’s stories which cover themes of central importance to building a strong character never lose their meaning.
Tales like those from Aesop and other fables teach children clear messages about right and wrong, moral or ethical and non-moral behavior, and the consequences of not exhibiting strong ethics and morals at all times and under all circumstances.
These stories teach children in non-threatening ways.
They don’t use scare tactics to get kids to understand the consequences of bad behaviors.
They instead play on the positive aspects of doing the right thing.
Storytelling techniques which are positive in nature have a healthier and more lasting effect on children’s own moral compass development.
New themes in children’s books
While some life lessons which appear in classic and contemporary children’s stories are the same lessons human have been teaching to their children for generations, there are also many relevant moral and ethical themes for today’s society. Parents who wish to use storytelling techniques to educate their kids on environmentalism, multiculturalism, and other similar concepts now have many options available in today’s kids books.
Incorporating ethical life lessons on these newer themes has never been easier.
Good bedtime stories can have somewhat complex themes that are broken down into easy to understand tales appropriate for young children. By making stories interesting and by parents employing good storytelling techniques, even complex themes are simple for kids to understand.
Don’t underestimate their ability to comprehend the moral behind the story.
Discussing Themes and Morals Outside of Story Time
Reinforcing life lessons learned during bedtime stories or other storytelling activities is also important.
The good bedtime stories you read to your kids are only the beginning of life lessons.
Use them as the jumping off point for a larger discussion on the topics covered in the stories and the moral or ethical lessons taught in the tales you read.