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Why Stories?

Why Stories?

June 15, 2015

I have been thinking a lot about stories lately. Why is it that we love to hear a good story? In the next few issues of WinkWorld, I’ll be telling stories about why stories matter.

One reason we love stories is because it is how we make sense of the world, as in the case a 5-year-old girl, V, who simply could not understand numbers from 1 to 100…until she connected them with a story.

V is in kindergarten and comes from a very enriched family with food, books, laughter, languages, and love. We can safely guess that she will do well in school. All of this was true until she met the number 100 and bunch of 10s. V could not count to 100 by 1s, nor by 10s. It was just incomprehensible for her stage of development in spite of base ten blocks and a super teacher. Her family started to count authentic items in V’s life: They collected and counted shells from the beach; they grouped and counted toys at home; they played jump rope and counted; they counted cars when they drove; they picked up stones and counted them. Still, from December until May of kindergarten, those numbers simply made no sense to V.

Frustrated, V’s mom, went to the school librarian, who gave her

a book “Let’s Count to 100” by Masayuki Sebe. See book here.

V and her mom sat down and looked at the pages of the new book.

“Which is your favorite page, V?” her mom asked.

“I hate this book and never want to see it again,” V responded, as she held back tears.   Wisely, V’s mom set the book on the coffee table and moved on to stories, which V wanted to hear.

However, V’s little sister, Z, found the book and started looking at the pictures and telling stories about the “cute animals” in the book. After a few days, V’s curiosity was peaked, and she started looking at the book, also.

V Finds A Story in the Book about Numbers

Suddenly, V found a page with a family of piranha fish, who were busily planning an attack on an elephant’s truck. On the next page, the elephant has a hurt trunk.

2 pages of piranhas and elephants

The story grabbed V’s imagination.

“Read to me, Mom, about this elephant with the hurt trunk,” she excitedly told her mom. V’s active engagement with the story (and, thus numbers) shot through the roof as she began to talk about the other elephants in the story.   Her mom continued to read and to listen.

“Look at all of the elephants–let’s count them, Mom,” she squealed. “Oh, and look at those piranha, let’s count them, too.”

V and her mom counted aloud by ones, and then her mom showed V how she could count super fast by tens, grouping the piranha into their different families.

“I can do that,” V said. And she did. That night, she showed her dad how she could count.

The story of the piranhas and elephants grabbed her interest, and instead of simply trying to memorize abstract groups of numbers, she was grouping the animals of her story.

Now, V’s mom is reading the story about piranhas and elephants over and over again, and V is counting to 100 by 1s and by 10s, V has moved on to other stories about other animals.

V now understands and can manipulate those numbers because of a story.

In the next WinkWorld, I will tell a story of V’s and Z’s mom, who could not make sense of statistics, specifically regression, until she found a story in the stat problems.

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