Stories matter. Telling stories is how humans connect and teach, convince and delight. That’s why I chose this career. Writing and shaping stories gives me the chance to show people how to thrive.
No one understands this better than Today host Savannah Guthrie. Savannah, mom of Vale, 3, and Charley, 8 months, is a lawyer, broadcast journalist, and, now, children’s-book author with the debut of Princesses Wear Pants, cowritten with her friend Allison Oppenheim, a clinical psychologist. The book may be pink and sparkly, but the story’s message, Savannah says, “is that you can be a princess and a doer and a girl of substance.”
I want to shout that message from the rooftops: that a child’s essence and value live inside. Of course, if you want a lesson to stick with a child, you have to capture her imagination, which Savannah does in the book—and at home with Vale and Charley.
Their apartment is filled with books—a few faves are Little Blue Truck, The Day the Crayons Quit, and On the Night You Were Born—and Savannah told me she and her husband, Michael Feldman, have started a new tradition of telling Vale true stories about, say, the time they went to the park or the doctor or the dentist. They’re simple stories—in fact the more mundane the better (“I’m trying to bore her to sleep!”). But she says Vale remembers every detail and corrects her if she tells it differently the next time. Savannah just added a new make-believe character into their life, the Big Red Heart Balloon. “Vale will be looking out the window and say, ‘Mommy, look! It’s the Big Red Heart Balloon!’ She has a vivid imagination, and it comes from storytelling,” says Savannah.
Indeed, hearing stories is vital to how children learn and grow. Shel Silverstein, author of the classic The Giving Tree, knew this too.
“I remember very well loving that book,” Savannah says. “But then I read it once Vale came along, and I had such a different reaction to it. I loved it as a little girl, and as an adult I found it so sad. As a kid, you identify with the child who has a tree giving everything to him. And as an adult, you identify with the tree.”
That’s what great stories do. They illuminate the lives of others, yes, but maybe they help us understand ourselves a little better too.