06/15/2012 05:33 pm ET Updated Aug 15, 2012

Take the Father's Day Challenge

For dads, Father's Day is a day of indulgence. I look forward each Father's Day to a freshly cooked breakfast for which I do not have to wash the dishes, the Sunday paper brought up to my bedroom, and the anticipation of opening up my Father's Day gifts -- the cheesier the better. (I eschewed loud ties years ago; my tastes now run toward flamboyant boxer shorts that proclaim the wearer as "The World's Best Dad.")

My family recently complained that Father's Day has turned me into a lazy bum, though, and they're probably right. So this Father's Day, instead of just receiving gifts, I'm going to give back to my family. For the next thirty days, I'm taking the "The Father's Day Challenge" and will create a story each night with my sons. I want the experience to be something my kids look forward to and that we can enjoy together.

Will you join me by telling stories with your own children for the next thirty days?

Before you commit, let me review for you the benefits of family storytelling.

First, storytelling enriches family time by creating a tradition that is fun, free and painlessly educational. It doesn't cost a cent and creates a special bond between parent and child.

Second, storytelling nurtures the rhythm of family life. Stories about family events, such as reunions, graduations and birthdays, generate excitement in kids and a sense of belonging.

Third, storytelling connects kids to their own culture and language. Every culture has a storytelling tradition and through stories, we link our children to the rituals and customs of previous generations.

Storytelling also allows children to experience the power of the spoken word and instills strong communication skills and a love of reading. It's an art that lets kids be active, encouraging them to conjure up their own mental images and, in the process, stimulates creativity and imagination.

If you're thinking, "Thirty days is a long time. How am I going to come up with so many stories?" -- don't worry. I'm guessing you'll be hooked before your time is up.

And thirty days gives you a good start on making storytelling a regular part of your kid's lives. Many dads have told me they tell stories occasionally with their kids, but quickly fall out of the habit. It can't become a family tradition if you only try it once or twice. Give it thirty days and you'll learn first-hand how easy and fun it can be.

That's right; storytelling is easier than you think. It doesn't require that you be a clever or a gifted speaker. The only requirement is you have a genuine interest in your kid's happiness and development... and what parent doesn't?

As for story topics, consider these:

• Let your child come up with the idea for a story. A great way to start is simply to ask, "What do you want your story to be about?" From the very get-go, you'll grab their attention and ensure their participation.

• Kids love hearing stories about you when you were their age. So tell one. It's also a great way to instill values and lessons learned.

• Base your story on your day's activities. June is a great time of the year to do this. The pressure of homework and getting to bed and school on time is off, so you won't have to rush your storytelling. Creating stories about your child's day, or tomorrow's plans, will turn summer into even more of an adventure.

• For a summer project, enlist your child in writing down your stories together. The record will serve as a wonderful memento and reminder of the fun you had. And if your child is old enough to go to camp, a little practice in storytelling might come in handy!

I'm looking forward to starting my thirty-day storytelling challenge on Father's Day. If you decide to join me, I hope you'll write and let me know how you and your kids made out. It might just be that your day of indulgence will become a day of gift giving, too.

John McCormick and his sons William and Connor are the authors of "Dad, Tell Me A Story," How to Revive the Tradition of Storytelling with Your Children (Nicasio Press 2010). For more information about family storytelling, visit the authors' website and blog at, or read their regular posts on The Parent Network at

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