Family-Centered Storytelling


Long ago, the storytelling circle was an extended family gathering, anywhere up to 20 or 30 people of all ages. Gathered closely together, everyone knew everyone else.  And the their treasure trove were shared memories and fantasies that they could conjure up around meals, celebrations, or in the quiet hours of a long night.

Anker Grossvater

Everyone was listener, and a potential teller.  Each teller had his or her unique perspective, and together they spun a common mythology that guided the whole community.  

While technical learning (hunting, farming, spinning, carving, etc.) required technical ability learned on a small stage, the storytelling circle was the great stage where shared common knowledge was celebrated.  It was the school of life.

storyteller africa

Some tellers knew many tales, some just a few.  Some were funny, some were inspirational, some wild-eyed visionaries, some reasuring and gentle. Somtimes strangers brought them tales from faraway places, and at other times a new bride or bridegroom  brought tales from a neighboring village or tribe.  

And over the centuries, all these tellers and listeners formed a wisdom-circle that shaped their personal and collective lives.  they lived the stories they told.

native american teller

Today the family is still the most natural storytelling circle.  It may be as small as a mother and child, or a large as an extensive family of grandparents, aunts and uncles, many children and evern more grandchildren.  In a time when family structures are under tremendous pressure, nurturing the art of family storytelling is crucial for any community.

The American Center for Storytelling and Narrative Art provides training and consultation services for providing storytelling experiences for families.

Please contact me if you have questions or comments. 

Dr. Robert Béla Wilhelm

© Robert Bela Wilhelm 2017