From making up bedtime stories for his 2-year-old daughter, to authoring a book of bedtime stories – Suresh Ediga writes about his journey.
Kids are curious by nature. In fact, very curious. Much before they begin to talk, they begin to question, to understand, to comprehend, and to learn. This curiosity begins to fade away as they grow older, evident from the simple fact that they stop asking questions and they also stop being creative. But what if I told you I found a way to keep both alive using a simple yet effective way that parents can try at home – bedtime storytelling.
The ritual of bedtime storytelling started almost 8 years ago as a way to put my daughter to bed. Since the light was too distracting for her, I couldn’t read from the books, I had to weave my stories. My daughter, who is now 10, still insists I tell her a story before going to bed. My son, now 4, also joined the bedtime storytelling camp. Although these stories started as my own, later these stories became a combined effort where, based on their inputs, I would weave the story.
I tell these stories using characters they can relate to and in a language they can understand. Over the years, these stories have become anything from my childhood to the environment to politics to pollution to corruption to friendship to love to real life heroes and a wide range of stories. These stories in the process opened up opportunities for important and difficult conversations:
- to have conversations that I would otherwise not have had
- to get reactions from kids that I would otherwise not have gotten
- to be asked questions that I would otherwise never have been asked
- to know the creativity of the kids, which otherwise I would probably not know
- to talk about topics that otherwise neither the school nor I would talk about
How did my kids react to these stories?
My kids’ interest in these stories in a way encouraged me to keep the ritual going. After I’m done with the bedtime story, every now and then, I find my daughter surprise me with a follow-up the next day. The follow-up would be in the form of poem or a drawing or a little note based on what she took away from the story. For e.g. when I told her about the Bhopal Gas Tragedy, the next day, she wrote a little note with a picture of a mother and a baby on her lap, asking the people responsible to clean up the site.
My son reacts almost the same way. I had recently told them about Aleppo and a little girl who was tweeting about the conditions in Aleppo, he would come ask me, “Is she safe now?” “Can she go to school now?”
Why are these stories so relevant, especially now?
The world around us is changing every day, every hour, every minute and every second. The technology brings these changes to our fingertips whether we want or whether we like it. There is an information overload, an outburst, an implosion and it’s not just percolating into our lives, but also our kids’ lives.
Sometimes we share this information with the kids and sometimes we shield our kids from this information. But the kids have access to technology and the latest gadgets. If not our kids, other kids have access and so they are invariably exposed to the good and the bad, the right and the wrong. Thus an environment is created in which our kids access this information, no matter what.
Children exposed to this information, sometimes without any filters, have no avenue to discern what is appropriate for them at their age. They obviously can’t talk to their teachers at school since they are always playing catch-up with their school syllabus and they can’t talk to their parents either, since they are busy with their daily grind of work– kids, family and livelihood.
So how do we create space to engage with the kids in a way that allows them to talk, interpret, discern and understand about topics, issues, events, disasters that they see or hear happening around them.
What made me write the book?
I’ve lost count, but I may have easily told them many hundreds, if not thousands, of stories. Some I blogged, some I didn’t. But over the years, I’ve seen how they have made an impact, since they still remember the characters I introduced to them, the stories I told them and the lessons they drew from them.
Given the busy lives we all lead, not to mention the constant distraction of the electronic gadgets, it seems we have to make an extra effort to make time for our kids. Storytelling has given me a reason, and a very good one, to bond with my children.
It’s for all these reasons I wrote this book and to help the parents provide some ideas to innovate and improvise, after all everyone is a born artist.
The book is available on amazon and is titled You, Me & A Story