The 2 Critical Story Skills They Don't Teach in School

Storytelling is ingrained in the human psyche, yet we do very little to teach our children to tell stories or to find them in the world.

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In schools across the world we teach young people many skills and bits of knowledge; like how to read and to write, how to solve quadratic equations, or how to calculate the atomic weight of Hydrogen. We arm our children with the most powerful concepts we can imagine in our overly analytical minds, so much so that we stress ourselves out and stress our children out in the process. However, I’ve noticed that we don’t spend enough time teaching our children two critical skills that are essential to life. We don’t teach them how to tell a story and we don’t teach them how to listen for one.

At first blush, you’d be likely to think kids get enough storytelling in their education. Our children are read to as early as preschool. As they get older, they write book reports and essays. Some go on to write dissertations. But that’s not the story skills I’m referring to. We do a fine job of helping young people comprehend what they’ve read. That’s not the same as learning how to tell a story so that someone comprehends what you have to say—to organize your thoughts in a way that makes people lean forward in their chairs because they can’t wait to learn what happens next. Nor is it the same as teaching a child to have an ear for a story—to want to go on the hunt and find one so bad that she asks delicious open-ended questions in her conversations because she senses there’s a story lying in wait to be devoured.

These are critical skills because when we tune our minds to listen for stories we actually comprehend more. We nourish our curiosity which leads to creativity and innovation. When we are trained to hunt for the story our brains naturally crave the sweet succulent questions that push us to discover, debunk and lead. And, when we think like storytellers we open our minds. We are prone to engage with others. We transfer ideas that were previously trapped in our heads. If we invested more time teaching our children to embark on a lifelong scavenger hunt for great stories, we would have a much more humane society. Because when you immerse your mind into the curious world of narrative you cannot help but unlock the virtues of human progress: context, empathy, and purpose.


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