Friday, August 17, 2018

Raising the Next Generation of Storytellers by Dawn Kinzer

Dawn Kinzer and Grandson

How do we raise the next generation of storytellers?

I grew up loving the written word. Reading opened a new world to me. My own as a child consisted of neighbors and friends in a town with a population of five hundred. The internet didn’t exist, and we only had a very small black and white TV. A trip to the revolving library tucked into a back room of our fire station was the highlight of my week.

Today’s generation has so many options to choose from when seeking entertainment—and many of the choices are electronic.

So, what might inspire the next generation of storytellers?

We can read to our children and grandchildren, and many of us do.

All three of my grandchildren love books. My oldest daughter and her two-year-old frequent their local library. One day as they pulled into the parking lot, my granddaughter—without prompting—began chanting from the backseat, “Yay, books!”

I’ve discovered that even more than having his favorite books read to him, my four-year-old grandson loves to be told a story.  And he prefers that it includes the two of us. (Sometimes we add in his sister, his parents, or his closest friends.) Rohan Dinosaur (his name) and Nana Dinosaur go on many adventures.  When he’s staying overnight, settling down to sleep, and we’ve already poured through a stack of books, he’ll always say, “Nana, tell me a story.”

When I Facetime with my daughter, he’ll either pop his face into view, or I’ll hear him in the background. “Can Nana tell me a story? I need a story.”

How can you help raise the next generation of storytellers?

Suggestions to try with your own little ones:

1. Before I begin a story, I ask my grandson what he’d like to hear. Sometimes he wants a story about dinosaurs, or sharks, or dragons. Sometimes he just wants me to run with it.

2. As I move the story along, I periodically stop and ask, “What do you think happened then?” This gives him an opportunity to add to the story, and it helps his own creativity. He gets excited when he can take the journey in the direction he wants.

3. Put the child into the story and take him or her on an adventure. Forget about being an introvert—forget about being an adult. Become as animated as you can, using facial expressions, gestures, and sound to help make the story come alive and more exciting. 

4. Use their toys to help create fiction. We use Fisher Price farm animals, my grandson’s small car collection, and even my stash of sea shells.

5. If you run out of ideas, take a familiar childhood book and put yourself and the child into the story, adding your own twist.

Examples of my grandson’s favorite story lines:

1. Rohan Dinosaur (RD) and Nana Dinosaur (ND) go to the farm, meet Farmer John, and visit all the animals.

2. RD and ND climb a mountain, find a treasure, and meet a friendly dragon.

3. RD and ND ride a boat out into the ocean and swim with dolphins and sharks, then get swallowed up by a whale.

4. RD and ND go for a walk in the woods and find a gingerbread house covered with candy and cookies. (Sound familiar? However, we've created our own version.)

And his current favorite …

5. RD and ND sprinkle themselves with magic dust and enter the Candy Land game.

What if your grandchildren live a distance away? 

Marco Polo
Here’s a tip. Videos are hard to send after they reach
 a certain length. My daughters and I are connected through a free app that we downloaded to our phones called Marco Polo. It’s basically video chatting (instead
of regular texting). You can send to an individual or to a group. It’s become a great way for me to tell stories of any length and send them to my grandchildren. They listen to them over and over and over.

I’ve discovered something else. Making up stories with my grandchildren not only sparks their creativity, it feeds mine. After working hard at being a “serious” writer (and we all know how much work writing can be), entering their world reminds me of how wonderful—how amazing—our imaginations can be.

Try it!

What are some ideas that you can share to help us inspire the next generation of storytellers?

The Daughters of Riverton, Book 3
Rebecca Hoyt’s one constant was her dedication to her beloved students. Now, a rebellious child could cost her the job she loves. Without her teaching position, what would she do?

Detective Jesse Rand prides himself in protecting the people who ride the railroads. But, when his own sister and brother-in-law are killed by train robbers, the detective blames himself. Yet, another duty calls—he must venture to Riverton where his niece and nephews were left in the care of their beautiful and stubborn teacher, Rebecca Hoyt. They need to mourn and heal, but Jesse is determined to find his sister’s killers. Rebecca is willing to help care for the children, but she also fears getting too close to them—or their handsome uncle—knowing the day will come when he’ll take them back to Chicago.

Will Jesse and Rebecca find a way to open their hearts and work together? Or will they, along with the children, lose out on love?

Questions included for discussion and reflection.


Dawn Kinzer is a freelance editor, and her own work has been published in various devotionals and magazines. She co-hosts and writes for Seriously Write. Sarah’s Smile is the first book in her historical romance series The Daughters of Riverton, Hope’s Design is the second, and Rebecca’s Song completes the trilogy.

A mother and grandmother, Dawn lives with her husband in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. Favorite things include dark chocolate, good wine, strong coffee, the mountains, family time, and Masterpiece Theatre.

You can connect and learn more about Dawn and her work by visiting these online sites: Author WebsiteDawn’s BlogGoodreadsFacebookPinterest, and Instagram.