In the paper Learning to Live Together, Margaret Sinclair and Jean Bernard tackle the question, “What can education systems do to build mind-sets supportive of peace, tolerance, respect for diversity and responsible citizenship.” As part of their approach, they advocate for the use of stories to teach ‘learning to live together’ themes: “There is substantial research to support the impact of carefully crafted, relevant stories on listeners in terms of bringing about associated behavioural change” (p.9).
In Annex 1 of their paper, ‘Some underpinnings of the use of stories,’ they discuss why stories are such vehicles for building important social and emotional skills. They list 5 characteristics of stories:
Emotional impact of stories
The role of empathy
Making it stick
Stories touch our emotions: “We have moist eyes after a sad film, or sometimes after a happy ending…At night…we dream in stories; that is part of how our brains work.” As we enter into the story, we have the opportunity to see the world through someone else’s eyes and gain empathy for them. As we listen to a story, we are mentally ‘transported’ into the story’s world. We also begin to mentally track together with the teller. Stories that are “simple, unexpected, concrete, credible, [and] emotional” stick with us, as do the messages they teach. (See the paper for references.)
One of SIL International’s most effective teaching narratives is Kande’s Story: How a community can love and care for people affected by AIDS. The book tells the story of a little African girl, Kande, whose parents both die from AIDS, leaving her and her brother orphans. Critical information about HIV and AIDS are embedded in the story line. Stigma, marginalization, and exploitation are depicted, but also how to care for someone with AIDS and ways that a community can come around those who suffer.
At last count, Kande’s Story has been translated into 222 languages. That would place it at 12th on the Wikipedia list of the world’s most translated books! (It would be 4th, on this list and 8th on this one.)
Here is our original blog post about Kande’s Story.