Storytelling – lessons from my 10 year old

I was recently helping my daughter with some research on a topic for her class presentation. As we googled the subject, I was teaching her how to develop story content by pulling out the salient points on the topic to include in her report.

What I found interesting about the topic, she obviously didn’t with the response…

“Mom, they already know that. I don’t want to bore my audience to death. If I include that, they’ll all fall asleep on me.”

She continued to draw on facts and tidbits she thought her class might find interesting. The fact that she didn’t pull the key elements to the story in chronological order didn’t matter to her.

What did matter to her was that she was telling the story in her own way, creating a story that she thought would engage her audience with information she felt was relevant and interesting.

Image of kids shoes

Wow! At age 10, she already knows the fundamental concept of storytelling.

Put yourself in your their shoes

As this little 360 degree lesson taught by my daughter reminds us, you have to put yourself in your audiences’ shoes… it will give you a new perspective when developing your story. To effectively get your ideas across, you must first figure out who your audience is, what they currently know and what more they want to know.

Then, think about how to guide them from their current knowledge to what you need them to know to get them to respond (call, visit, sign-up). To do this, try answering the following questions:

  • Who is my audience?
  • What does my audience already know about the topic?
  • What does my audience need to know?
  • What questions will my audience have?
  • What’s the best outcome for telling my story? What do I need to say to get my point across?
  • What’s the best outcome for my audience? What do I need to say to get them to act?

Identifying your audience needs will do more than ensure that you write clearly. It will help you create a story that is relevant, engaging and personal, directly targeted to your audience.

Elementary, isn’t it?


About the Author
Deanna White has always been passionate about marketing and public relations. Owner of storylinePR, Deanna is best known for taking it beyond the pitch. For building brands & bottom lines with the right channels to share your story.

a gift that lasts a lifetime

[tweetmeme source=”storylinePR” only_single=false]I introduced reading to my daughter at an early age.  Perhaps it is because of my line of business, but I have witnessed firsthand how reading creates a strong foundation for children. Word recognition, comprehension abilities, listening skills and self-confidence building are all fostered through the reading experience.   It is a proven fact that children who develop a love for books and reading have a better chance at success in school and in later life.

That’s why storylinePR is supporting the Ottawa Citizen Raise-a-Reader campaign whose goal is to increase awareness and raise money for children’s literacy programs in Ottawa.   This years’ Ottawa Citizen Raise a Reader Day is scheduled for Wednesday, September 29, 2010.  All funds will to be distributed to charities with family literacy programs through the Ottawa Citizen Literacy Foundation through the Community Foundation of Ottawa.

For me, I find the greatest benefit is in the parent/child reading experience itself.  It comes from the cuddle, the bonding, the joy of the moment and witnessing the learning process.  If you’re a parent, I’m sure you can understand that sentiment. No matter how crazy my business is, I always take time to ready to my daughter, every single day.  Instilling a love of reading in a child is giving them a gift which will last a lifetime!

celebrating every gorgeous moment

A while ago, I took Madeline swimming as she absolutely loves the water.  She doesn’t however, like going under the water, although she is getting more and more fearless with her mermaid persona in the tub at bath time.  On one of these mermaid adventures at the community pool, she took a dip below the water line. Still unsure of how to rise to the surface, I reached in and pulled her up and of course, she was coughing from the water she had swallowed.  I asked her if she was ok – and she looked up at me with her little red eyes from the chlorine and said.  “I’m ok mom.  I just lost my breath – but I still have my heart to love you.”

A product of too much Disney?  Perhaps.  But none the less, these are the sweetest words I’ve ever heard accompanied by the tightest hug I have ever felt. I believe both these sentiments were derived from her wonderful heart that with each experience, proves to me just how innocent the world around us can be.

It saddens me that as adults, we lose the ability to connect with our inner child. I often wonder at which point in our lives our innocence disappears?  I feel very lucky to have Madeline take me to that place where I am able to celebrate her world and help me create the stories I do. 

I will leave you with these words I read some time ago about entertaining your inner child, which at the time, I found very profound but unable to fully appreciate until my Maddy showed me how…

  • Stay loose.
  • Learn to watch snails.
  • Plant an impossible garden.
  • Invite someone dangerous to tea.
  • Make little signs that say ‘yes!’ and post them all over your house.
  • Make friends with freedom and uncertainty.
  • Look forward to dreams.
  • Cry during movies.
  • Swing as high as you can on a swing set.
  • Cultivate moods.
  • Refuse to “be responsible”.
  • Do it for love.
  • Take lots of naps.
  • Do it now.
  • Believe in Magic.
  • Laugh a lot.
  • Take moon baths.
  • Have wild imaginings, transformative dreams, and perfect calm.
  • Draw on the walls.
  • Read every day.
  • Imagine yourself magic.
  • Giggle with children.
  • Listen to old people.
  • Play with everything.
  • Build a fort with blankets.
  • Get wet. Hug a tree.
  • Write love letters.

And my personal favourite… Celebrate every gorgeous moment.

word recognition and association

As a new mom, I started reading to my daughter at a very early age.  At just a few months old, I would read my parenting magazines out loud or the daily newspaper, delivering the news in a “once upon a time – fairytale tone” – just so she could hear my voice.  Now at four, she can’t seem to get enough. 

Madeline is at the age where she is desperately trying to read and associating pictures with words. Bedtime reading has become a ritual and a trip to the library is a big event. As I read each new adventure, she listens intently on first delivery.  I can’t say “the end” quickly enough before she gently takes the book from my hands and exclaims, “Now it’s my turn”- mimicking the storyline by matching the pictures with what she had just heard.  Her rendition is even better than the first one.

Reading with your child is a gift that cost you nothing and means everything! I came across these stats about the positive impact reading has on a child’s development and thought I would share.

  • Simple things like reading and telling stories to a child at 18 months are powerful stimuli for brain development in the early years. (Early Years Study Final Report: Reversing the Real Brain Drain, Government of Ontario, 1999).
  • Reading to children more than once a day has a substantial positive impact on their future academic skills. In addition, research indicates children with early exposure to books and reading are better at performing mathematical tasks (National Longitudinal Survey of Children and Youth, Statistics Canada, 1996-1997).
  • Children aged 2 to 3 who are read to several times a day do substantially better in kindergarten at the age of 4 and 5 than youngsters who are read to only a few times a week or less. (National Longitudinal Survey of Children and Youth, Statistics Canada, 1996-1997).
  • Some experts say that for 80 per cent of children, simple immersion in reading and books will lead to independent reading by school age. (How to Make Your Child a Reader for Life, Paul Kropp, Random House Canada, 2000).
  • Parents should pay careful attention to three potential reading slump times that can hinder a child’s reading development: when a child enters kindergarten; at grade 4; and when a child enters high school. (How to Make Your Child a Reader for Life, Paul Kropp, 2000).

Madeline’s little attempts at deciphering words in our daily routine are adorable.  The other day after school, we emptied the mail box where she arranged the junk mail in a pile and announced in the most serious tone “OK, I’m going to read you what it says”.  She picks up the real estate flyer first, holding it up at eye level and reveals its message… “Clean up your house”.  Next, a pizza flyer. The message? “I’m hungry, let’s eat”.   Her endearing attempts at word recognition continued throughout our evening with her picking up an empty popcorn box out of the recycling bin, tracing the word “buttery” with her index finger and sounding out the word slowly so that I can comprehend it… “pop-corn”. 

I can’t help but laugh quietly to myself as I certainly don’t want to crush her enthusiasm. I encourage her “reading” to me as much as possible because before I know it, the tables will turn where she will be reading bedtime stories to me each night.

Thank you…

Thank you–all of you–who have voted and asked friends and co-workers to vote. So far, I am still in the running.

As you may know, it is the final stretch of The SavvyMom “Mom Entrepreneur of the Year Award” contest to become Canada’s Top Mom Entrepreneur – which I am both honoured and humbled to have been nominated.  I have some tough competition.  There are many talented and creative Mom Entrepreneur’s out there; however, the winner of this beauty contest is the one who receives the most “votes”.  

The contest ends 11:59:59 p.m. ET on Sunday, September 14, 2008. So, I’m asking everyone I have ever met in my entire life, (even those I haven’t had the pleasure but appreciate the work I do), to take a minute and vote for me and my newest division of spin, Storyline for kids.

You can do so by clicking the “vote for us” icon on my home page at I will be eternally grateful.

If you have taken the time to do so already, my deepest appreciation.  Call on my support when an equal opportunity presents itself for you.
And regardless of the outcome… please remember the importance reading with the little minds in your life, (your children, nieces, nephews, cousins etc)…  Instilling a love of reading in a child is giving them a gift which will last a lifetime!

dangling the reading carrot

I created a new group on facebook the other day called “the gift that lasts a lifetime.” 

I have had the fortune of having Madeline dive into reading head first, but I am always looking for more fun ways to continually encourage the good habit we have developed together.  I created this group is for parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts, and anyone who has children in their lives who value the importance literacy. It is a venue to share their thoughts, reflect on their own parent-child reading experiences and contribute ideas on how to create unique and creative ways to enjoy story time together.  I have posted it to all my friends who have kids, on other “mom” like groups in hopes that I would have more participation from like minded individuals.  I am sad to report that I have not had many join the group.  In fact, I have had only one person join in the last 24 hours. 

In my latest discussion topic, dandling the reading carrot, I decided to dangle a little carrot of my own by starting a contest.  Those who join and post an answer to this topic on to how to make reading fun, will be entered into a draw to win this years’ Storyline for kids seasonal story – “A Dreamy Adventure with Santa” for their child this Christmas – plus a personalized letter from Santa. (A $25 value). 


One of the benefits of the creation of storyline for kids is that it encourages Madeline to read.  Surely, moms will see the value of sharing creative and unique ways to do the same.  Doesn’t anyone value literacy any more?  Has the digital age really replaced good old fashioned reading habits?  Have we forgone the importance of reading and what it can do for young minds? 

the gift

With the arrival of spring and all the joys it brings with it, I reflect on this past winter season.  My daughter really “got” Christmas this year.  It meant more to her than simply ripping paper and glittery bows off boxes – only to toss them aside to move on to the next one – perfectly oblivious to the unveiled toy I searched for in three different malls in the middle of a snow storm.  She gets the whole, “Santa coming down the chimney” and “good girls and lists”… and believe me – I use it to my advantage all year long while I can.


She was so engrossed in the magic of Christmas last year, that Madeline has decided that this year, she was going to visit the north pole and talked about  it relentlessly every night, long after the jolly old soul had come and gone.  So each night as we got all tucked into bed, we would talk about what Santa’s workshop would look like and what she would do once she got there… and that’s exactly how our dreamy adventure with Santa began.  With the help of my sleepy little editor, it evolved into a wonderful story.   Madeline enjoys an adventure with Santa where she visits the North Pole with her friends to see how Santa and Mrs. Claus get ready for Christmas.  In the story, Madeline and her friends meet the reindeer, share cookies with elves, ride in Santa’s sleigh and get a sneak peek at their names on Santa’s “nice” list. 


Originally crafted for Madeline, I have added this story to the growing list of Storyline for kids books for other parents to experience with their own children and also crafted a fun, personalized letter from Santa with optional messaging.  I’m looking forward to seeing Madeline’s eyes light up when she receives her letter from Santa “in the mail” this year. 


I know… I know… spring has just sprung and here I am preparing for next Christmas.  Believe me – I can do without the snow, (that just melted completely from our backyard last week, I might add).  Being a mom and having the opportunity to share these experiences with her is like being a kid a Christmas myself.  I feel so incredibly blessed.  Crafting each story together is like unwrapping a new gift everyday.  I never know how the storyline will evolve with her little imagination at work or how it is going to end, but I can be sure that the final “package” is something we will both treasure for a long, long time.