The Beauty of Stories: The Ultimate Staycation, Part 1* by Dr. Ondra Krause Dismukes

In my first non-academic blog, entitled “The Beauty of Stories,” I wrote about the universal appeal of stories to speak to us on so many levels. Admittedly, as an English Professor, I am biased; however, I remain steadfast in my thesis:

The real beauty of . . . any story . . . lies in its universal appeal to entertain, inspire, and challenge us to think not only about our values but also about our roles in society . . .. [A]ll stories [speak] to us individually, collectively, and universally. [Their] appeal may change, but their power to transform our thinking remains. (Dismukes)

In fact, our global need to self-quarantine reminds me that stories offer a certain value we often take for granted – namely, the joy of escape; talk about the ultimate staycation! If you’re the parent or guardian of school-aged children – as I am - and are “suddenly” thrust into the world of digital learning, this one’s for you!

I acknowledge my use of quotation marks around the word “suddenly” because, if we’re honest with ourselves – at least those of us who have experienced at least one year of parenting a child in the kindergarten-through-12th-grade (K-12) education system - we are at least remotely – no pun intended (but appreciated) – familiar with the concept of digital learning days, which consequently extend learning beyond the brick-and-mortar classroom. Yes, we are at least tangentially familiar with this concept; however, the equally consequential government mandates to shift K-12 learning to an online platform during the Covid-19 epidemic presents an additional opportunity for parents to ensure their students’ success. Well, if your child is studying literature, you’re in luck! Thanks to the beauty of stories, you and your child can enjoy the ultimate staycation, and maybe even learn a little bit in the process. Here’s what I mean:

Students in literature courses inevitably study . . . Wait for it. . . LITERATURE; translation: automatic book club! Suggest that your child reach out to his or her classmates to create a modified book club and chat about the latest reading assignment; let’s face it, they’re group chatting, anyway! Play referee/parent, lay down the rules, . . . (and help this struggling English professor) . . . Remind your child of the dangers of sharing answers; suggest that each person in the group share a different example. Speak to your child in his or her language: Encourage the unofficial rule that the best response, as judged by the study group, wins bragging rights on IG, Snapchat, or TikTok! This is Peer Review 2.0 in this Covid-19-ridden -20!

Want to turn-up even more on this staycation?! Encourage your literature student/study-group leader to have his or her classmates post a selfie of the characters they’re studying, or create a meme of the character with a quote that best represents the author. Here, again, the winner gets bragging rights on social media! Who knows? You might even help your child learn a little bit about characterization as a literary device.

Here’s another one! Challenge your child to raise the bar on his or her friends by posing quotes and selfies showing how the author’s words – or a character’s expressions – make him or her feel. If you’re not careful, your child just might develop an understanding of tone or – brace yourself - a deeper sense of how words affect emotion. Imagine that: the possibility of emotional connection from a book!

Please understand, my ideas are just that; they’re ideas based on the assumption that we, as parents, recognize that our children are likely using Group Chat and other social media platforms to discuss – i.e. compare - answers. My challenge to you, as the parent/guardian, is to acknowledge and embrace it, while still steering the proverbial parenting ship.

Consider yourselves warned, though! This approach might involve having actual conversation with your children about they’re learning – or, at least working on – in school. What’s the harm in asking? The world’s on quarantine; what else have we to do but talk to those with whom we share space? What’s the worst that could happen? You’ll be communicating with your children about them, not necessarily what interests them, but it’s about them and what should interest them. On the sneak tip, you will have helped your child engage with literature on a level that he or she can grasp because, hey, it’s about them. Their grades may not improve; but, thanks to the beauty of stories, your children just might develop an accidental appreciation for the universal appeal of literature. What’s more, your children will learn about people and places they might otherwise not visit outside of Instagram; and, fostering this type of engagement with your children might, ultimately, contribute to your own peace of mind. . . and therein lies the ultimate beauty of stories. Here’s to your staycation: Be well!

Works Cited

Dismukes, Ondra.“The Beauty of Stories.” The Linguistique Mystique, November 17, 2018, Accessed 6 April 2020.

*This post was originally published on April 6, 2020 on; it has been edited from its original version.

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