In the centuries before radio, TV, movies, DVDs, PCs and video games, winter nights were often marked by shared storytelling. With the sun setting early and the nights long, stories provided people around the globe a chance to entertain each other, connect with those around them and carry forward traditions and values that defined their cultures. Filled with magic, mystery and, more than occasionally, a good lesson for listeners, these folktales, legends and fairy tales ignited generations of imaginations -- and can ignite those of your own children.
Tonight, pull the family together on your comfiest sofa for an hour of storytelling. Think about the stories from your own culture that your parents or grandparents shared with you as a child, or use the time to explore the legends from another culture. Encourage your children to really listen, closing their eyes and letting the words paint pictures in their heads, exercising the mental muscles that often go lax in today's world, where images are provided for them on-screen. When you finish a story, don't just hop to another one -- let the kids tell you what they liked about the story, what they thought about the choices made by the characters, what they thought the stories were about. And share your own take on the tales -- you might be surprised how, for once, the kids actually want to hear what you have to say.