New Mexico, July 1945: Chain-smoking English Scientist, Jason Stone, dies moments before the first test of the atom bomb.
Later, when the bomb he helped create is dropped on
Leaving behind all he thought he knew (except cups of tea and packs of Chesterfield cigarettes), Jason becomes as much a student as a guide: Learning that each soul – whether it be an American marine in Vietnam, or a teenage suicide in 1980s West Berlin – will be taken to the same place when they die. It’s only their journey that is different.
But what happens when a Reaper’s heart becomes too full of the joys and sorrows of the world? And when Jason meets an old friend, who shares a long forgotten guilt, will Jason’s soul survive the burden?
Encouraging Children’s Natural Storytelling Skills
By JC Piech
Most kids are natural storytellers. In fact, sometimes it can be hard getting them to stop talking about all the fantastical ideas they’re constantly dreaming up. But how can we better facilitate children’s innate storytelling abilities? And what are the benefits of doing so?
Stories & Brain Development
Whilst on the surface our children’s inclination to play and daydream may seem like nothing more than sweet, innocent childishness, the process of creating, exploring and discovering is actually vital for their cognitive development.
Research has shown that being told stories helps with cognitive skills like problem solving, understanding themes and threads, and seeing how they link together. Children who were told three or four stories a day when young were noticeably more advanced in their academic abilities later on in life.
Telling stories enables us to take our emotions and process them in such a way that we are then able to relate them to others in a coherent manner. This does two things: it helps us understand ourselves better, and it lets us express ourselves to other people. In children, this process is highly important. We aren’t born with the ability to talk about our feelings, or even with the awareness of what it is we’re feeling. This is why young children will often have tantrums or ‘misbehave’ – they’re experiencing emotions but don’t have the vocabulary or understanding to express it directly. Anger, frustration, disappointment, confusion and just plain tiredness can become a raging fit of screaming, kicking and crying. Some adults have difficulty putting words to their emotions, so it’s little wonder children have such a hard time with it.
Stories of heroes and villains, princesses and evil step-mothers, dragons, unicorns, fairies and monsters can all help a child become more familiar with the complexities of the human experience. It acts as exercise for the left side of the brain, giving it necessary practice of taking the enormity of emotions and inner experience and using communication skills to tell others about them.
It also helps the child see how to work through life challenges. As they listen to the adventures of the hero or heroine, and see how they handle and overcome the struggles and dangers they face in their make-believe world, the child grows in confidence that such things can be surmounted, and so develops belief in their own ability to do so. Few gifts can be more valuable for a child to gain.
Embracing Creativity Helps Self-Esteem
Not only is storytelling important for cognitive abilities, it’s also good for confidence. When we give our children the space to be creative, without judgment, we’re also setting them up well for future success.
Any successful entrepreneur will tell you that creativity is key. Without it, Bill Gates would not be one of the wealthiest people in the world. It’s a mistake to think of imagination as a ‘waste of time’, because academics aren’t everything. A person needs to have both creativity and knowledge in order to be inventive and skilled in what they do.
However, without nurturing, a child can lose faith in their imagination. All too often adults tell their kids not to make up ‘silly’ stories, or that time spent playing isn’t productive. In actual fact, a person’s ability to ‘play’ with ideas will make them more likely to have fresh ideas in the work place, or will enable them to dream up concepts that no one else has thought of before. Of course, a child needs structure in their life, and none of us can play all the time, but playing is most definitely a form of learning, and this should be acknowledged and valued.
A great way to support your children with storytelling is to get involved in it with them. Reading or making up stories together can be a wonderful experience. When reading from a book, you can discuss the characters and the issues they’re faced with, and if you’re making up a story, you and your child can both add elements to the plot together.
Stories aren’t just a form of entertainment: they are a complete and necessary learning experience for us all.
JC Piech is an author and creative confidence mentor who lives in southeast
with her husband. Since 2002 she has had a number of non-fiction articles and short stories published. 'Don't Be Afraid' is her debut novel. She loves working from home because it means she can stay in her pyjamas. England
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