Image by Dmitry Ratushny

The Storytelling Gene

Picture the scene. Four generations of a family are gathered: great-grandparents, a grandfather, a mother, and small sister and baby brother. I cuddle my niece’s children, part of the family tree, but out on a limb. We watch The Gruffalo on the television and join in with the rhyming bits. And then we share a moment that I wanted to box up and keep forever.

My father, mathematician, ex-teacher and patriarch, is a storyteller. When we were children, he read to us of wishing chairs in faraway lands. Now, he tells me tales of life in the past, his own and that of the writers he loves. My brother, former headteacher and patriarch of his own brood, doesn’t read, he says, because isn’t interested in books and doesn’t think he ever was. My niece, young teacher with all of life before her, has a mind full of stories she has read as a child, at school to her pupils, and at home to her children. She reads beautifully and her daughter slips into her arms for a story as a hand in glove, as I had done with my mother, once upon a time.

When even The Gruffalo fails to keep the two-year old girl amused, she snuggles up to her great-grandfather, with a favourite book. My brother hovers, anxious. The little girl and Dad haven’t spent much time together in her little life, and she might not manage to read to him. But she does. So, the three of them are there, in perfect harmony, sharing a book, finding out what a ladybird heard. The men mouthing the words, the little girl leading the way. My brother has memorized every word. Dad the happiest he’s been for a long time. Mollie is being Mollie and keeps reading.

Reading brings us together. Celebrate it. Celebrate us.

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