How do you engage children in family stories or in fact any stories?
I have been contemplating this recently and luckily was able to attend an interesting talk by Kate Simpson, a children’s author during the GSQ Mini Seminar on 4 June, Sharing Family History: telling, writing. In her talk, she spoke about preserving stories for the next generation of your family and the importance of knowing your audience and making sure your story was focused on their age and interests.
In a previous blog, I explained how I had been thinking of writing about family history for my little grandson who lives in the USA. He had just been born and, while in the States visiting him and his parents and going to several museums and various concerts, I had started thinking of sharing family stories with him. (https://gsq-blog.gsq.org.au/how-do-you-pass-on-family-stories-to-your-grandchildren/)
On my return from the USA, the pandemic started to spread throughout the world, and it seemed even more important to find a way to connect with him; I would not see him for two years other than sessions on FaceTime. As his first birthday was fast approaching, I decided to do a photo book.
The first task was to identify a common thread which I could use to anchor many of the family photos. As I had grown up on a property in the west of Queensland, where we had many pets and animals, I decided to use Family Pets as the common theme. This was also because he was at the age where he could simply point at the animals. I spent some time sifting through photos for the book and asking other members of my family what they had. It was generally a good exercise for me as I discovered photos I didn’t know existed or had forgotten about. I also asked my daughter-in-law’s family for photos so I could include them too.
I then choose a company that offered photo book services. I needed to use a service located in the USA, as when completed it needed to be sent directly to Chicago. I chose https://www.snapfish.com/home which incidentally has an Australian arm. However use the Australian site, if you want it to be sent within Australia. and the US one, if you want it sent within the USA. They are not transferable. There are many other companies and these were outlined by Judy Lofthouse in her presentation The Shortened Family Book at the GSQ Mini Seminar. These include https://www.albumworks.com.au, https://www.photobookshop.com.au, https://www.officeworks.com.au/print-copy/c/pcc/photo-photo-gifts, https://www.bigwphotos.com.au/collections/photo-books, https://www.harveynormanphotos.com.au/collections/photo-books.
Judy also included a site which reviews photo books. https://newspacephoto.org/best-photobook-australia-review/
Once I had completed Family Pets, Snapfish sent it to my grandson for his first birthday. Although it was strange not to see the actual book, my son read it to my grandson with me on the other end of FaceTime!
Next I needed to think about what my next project would be. I decided to tell the story of a family trip to England and Brittany (France) when my son was almost two years old…in fact he celebrated his second birthday during the trip. There were many slides of this trip so I had to think carefully about which I would use. I decided to include the one of my son sucking his thumb and, for the sake of authenticity, to leave the biro marks.
This photo book was different as there were two target audiences, my grandson and my son. I tried to keep the language simple but included some extra words (sometimes in brackets) and photos, so my son had a clearer idea of what we had done. I also had a diary from this trip which helped me identify and tell the story of the photos.
Daddy’s First Big Trip was completed and delivered by Snapfish for his second birthday. My grandson calls this book, Little Daddy, which is I guess his way of trying to place his father as a child. After finally visiting Chicago in March this year, I have now seen both books and read them to my grandson which I have really enjoyed.
Although both these books took me some time to compile, I have really enjoyed engaging with all these old photos again and remembering the stories behind them. It is a way of bringing them to life so, hopefully, another generation can enjoy them too.