Teaching Stories

Although stories are thought to be only for entertainment, more recently it is well known and accepted that stories can be instructive, for example, some stories can teach people about certain moral behaviour.


But what made people consider stories as an educational tool? From the scientific point of view it was Robert Ornstein who first studied the effects that a specific kind of story has in the human brain.

These “teaching stories” come from a rich tradition of storytelling in Central Asia. For more than a thousand years people have told children these stories as part of the oral tradition with a purpose beyond entertainment, they meant to teach children to understand their world; education came from stories.

Their basic structure is present in every culture and it is their universality what makes them important because they contain important elements of teaching, not only for the children but also for the adult who is reading, about the basic process of becoming human.

Teaching stories help children understand human nature. They encourage qualities such as self-reliance, or the ability to overcome fear caused by things that children do not yet understand, or to give them alternatives as to have a peaceful negotiation rather than violent confrontation. The development of the plot and the characters in these stories are made within improbable events, which make the reader explore new venues and develop more flexibility in the mind to understand the complex world we live in.

Ornstein says that teaching stories stimulate the part of the brain that has to do with context, that is the right part of the brain, the one that is in charge of putting things into context; it puts together the different components of an experience. While the left side of the brain is the one that provides the pieces themselves.

Teaching stories help us to prepare for different situations in life, whether they are routine or unexpected events. “They not only have an effect on the mind and on the cognitive development; but as well on the mind of future actions of us and our children”.

- Society for Understanding of Fundamental Ideas


Note: For more information on teaching stories please contact the Society for Understanding of Fundamental Ideas. Or, for a present day example of published teaching stories for children please visit www.hoopoekids.com and their selection of books.