Family Life

Why I Love Family Storytelling (+ Why It Matters)

This post is sponsored by Before You, an app designed to make family storytelling simple for busy parents and fun for children

Years ago, when Ella was just a baby, I read a book called The Secrets of Happy Families. 

It was packed full of great things, but the one that I’ve remembered most clearly since then was about how one of the strongest predictors of a child’s long term emotional well-being and happiness is family storytelling and a sense of how they fit into a larger family unit.

This resonated strongly with me because I grew up in a family like that.

memory app

My dad’s family had a very strong family culture and identity and one of our favorite things as children was for my dad to tell us stories from his childhood.

One of our favorites was about how my dad and his older brother found some matches and snuck down to the basement to light them.

When their dad came home and headed down to the basement, he noticed that distinctive smell of matches and called all the children to see who had been endangering the whole family.

My dad, who was probably about six at the time, said he had no idea who had lit the matches.

Of course, his older brother promptly confessed that he AND my dad had been the culprits, and my dad got in extra trouble for not only lighting the matches, but also failing to be honest about it.

I probably heard that story about fifty times as a child, and now MY children love hearing that story too.

Bonus points for being a good lesson about honesty.

storytelling apps

My dad has also always loved making little videos and as a teenager, he directed a bunch of little films with his siblings, including lots of trick photography, which was his favorite.

He told us in great detail about a film they’d made of one sibling eating a banana but then ran the film backward so it looked like the banana was getting bigger with each bite and then eventually zipped back into the peel.

A year or two later, when we were visiting my grandparents, my granddad dug out that old video and played it for us, to our great delight.

storytelling app

Last weekend, we attended my grandfather’s funeral and all fourteen living grandchildren were in attendance, despite the fact that we live all over the place, from Korea and Washington DC to Iowa and California and a bunch of other states.

Even though we rarely see each other, we’ve always all had a really fun, close relationship because my dad’s family had reunions every other summer for my entire childhood.

The night before my parents got married, all four of the siblings committed to getting together every other year with their families, and they kept it up even when one sister and her husband moved to Europe for about a decade and the other siblings were scattered across the United States.

We had so much fun at those reunions each year, playing epic games of Charades, making elaborate scripture story videos, and singing our family songs (when your grandfather is a composer, the musical caliber of a family reunion goes way up).

We all felt strongly connected as a family despite the distance and being all together last weekend was full of laughter and reminiscing about favorite memories together.

My granddad had a notorious sweet tooth and after the post-funeral luncheon, my Grannie passed around boxes of See’s Chocolates for everyone to share in his honor.

We all laughed about our favorite dessert-related memories with Granddad, including one about five years ago where several of us cousins went out to lunch with my grandparents and when the waitress took our orders, we all ordered sandwiches or salads until she got to my Granddad. Without missing a beat, he told her, “I’m 92. I’m just going to go straight to the chocolate cake.”

It’s important to me that those stories get preserved, especially because whenever my children ask me to tell them a story about my childhood or about their grandparents or great-grandparents, I feel like my mind goes immediately blank.

I recently started using the newly-launched Before You memory app, which makes it super simple to record memories for your family, whether it’s with photos, videos, audio, or text.

before you app

(Also, it’s a free app!)

You can pick a prompt – anything from “put me in, coach” about sports or “first time away from home” and then it’ll walk you through adding the important details.

Before You also lets you choose from categories like “people” or “places” or “events,” each of which have easy subcategories to spark memories or you can just use the “What’s On Your Mind” setting and it’ll let you tell any story you want, however you want to.

family history app

It’s such a simple, straight forward memory app that’s beautifully designed, with the perfect mix of direction and freedom.

I love that I can turn on the voice recording feature and just let my phone capture a story while I tell it to my girls over the dinner table or on a road trip.

I love that I can add photos and the people I was with, the locations on the maps and dates.

At the funeral last week, my dad and his three siblings all spoke. Some of the stories they shared were ones I’d heard a dozen or more times, while others were completely new to me.

It helped me realize how fleeting those memories can be and how easily they can be lost if you don’t take the time to record them.

wedding album

One of my main goals for my children is for them to feel a strong sense of belonging in our family and for our family culture to be something that supports them as they grow up and leave home.

I want them to know what makes our family unique, who their parents and grandparents and great-grandparents are, and how happy we are that they are a part of it all.

I definitely want to provide them with easy to access and enjoy stories and photos and memories of all the things that happened before they were born.

Mostly, I hope that when my funeral rolls around, my children are all there together and that my grandchildren also feel that sense of unity and connection that I feel with my cousins and aunts and uncles, parents.

And if they pass around boxes of chocolates afterward?

I won’t complain about that either.


P.S. You can download the Before You app for free here. It’s so simple to use and I think you’ll love using it!

family history

Photos by Christie Knight Photography

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  • Reply Diana June 29, 2018 at 11:43 am

    At Thanksgiving when my Grandpa was 88 (I think) he came back from the dessert table with a piece of every kind of pie. Basically a plate overflowing with pie. Because when you’ve lived life that long…I think you can go a little crazy on the desserts. =) I love the sentiment you shared here! So important to share our stories with family!

  • Reply Sherry L Lindsay June 29, 2018 at 3:05 pm

    I am excited to try this app! You know how important family history is to me, but I kind of stink at relaying it to my kids. They are always asking Eric for stories of when he was a little boy, but when they ask me I’m totally stumped. I want to be better about sharing stories about our extended families too because it is so important for people to know where they came from.

  • Reply Vanessa June 29, 2018 at 6:08 pm

    Has this become a Mommy blog?? Where are all the book posts?

    • Reply Janssen Bradshaw June 29, 2018 at 10:15 pm

      I’m so sorry to disappoint you!

      I’ve always had a lot of family and parenting content on Everyday Reading, but I try to make sure books remain a consistent part of what I’m sharing. After I read your comment, I went back to check and five of the last fifteen posts are book lists or book recommendations and reviews and 33% feels about the right balance to me.

      I completely understand if you no longer feel like you’re getting what you originally came to Everyday Reading for, but I always do my best to create content that I hope will be useful, interesting, and relatable!

  • Reply Ashley Pullen June 30, 2018 at 7:10 am

    What a lovely post. I am very sorry about the loss of your grandpa. Grandparents are so special.

    I couldn’t help but see the negative comment as I scrolled to comment. I love seeing glimpses into your family life. Your blog is my favorite!

    • Reply Janssen Bradshaw July 1, 2018 at 11:31 am

      Thank you so much! I really really appreciate your kind comment!

  • Reply Karen July 2, 2018 at 4:49 pm

    Gah, that comment about turning into a mommy blog doesn’t sound very nice! I have to say that yours is one of just a few blogs I make time to read regularly and it is exactly because you have such a perfect mix of content!! I’ve noticed when you lean heavy in any category and I tend to get tired of too many book posts, or too much about food, etc….even though I love pretty much all the topics. My life as a Mom encompasses all the things you talk about, so if that makes you a mommy blogger….keep it up because your ideas and relatability enrich my life!

    • Reply Janssen Bradshaw July 2, 2018 at 7:39 pm

      Thank you so much! I really appreciate it and I’m glad it’s been helpful!

  • Reply Ros July 9, 2018 at 1:03 pm

    This is SUCH a great idea for an app, but I want to note (in case it impacts anyone else) that it’s only available on iOS. I currently have an android phone but my family has an ipad, so that’s usable, but I’m all ears if anyone has a non-Apple recommendation for an app!

    (And regarding the ratio of book posts to life posts – 33% is about right for me too! I’m a reader and love books, but I’m also a mom of multiples and a career-oriented woman and I care about food and fashion and house aesthetics and LIFE in general. Keep writing what matters to you! )

    • Reply Janssen Bradshaw July 9, 2018 at 1:35 pm

      Yes! I should have mentioned that. I’m glad to hear it works on your iPad.

      And thanks for your kind note. I appreciate it so much.

  • Reply Marsali July 12, 2018 at 10:25 am

    This app sounds great – quick question about it: are there easy ways to export the content, or to share it with a family member’s phone? If I could get my parents to record some memories, can they share those files with loved ones?


    • Reply Janssen Bradshaw July 12, 2018 at 10:38 am

      It’s a good question! Let me find out and I’ll let you know!

    • Reply Janssen Bradshaw July 12, 2018 at 1:25 pm

      Okay! Here’s what they told me:

      “Upgrading to Before You Premium gives users access to the secure storage and sharing features which allow them to store all their stories safely on the cloud as well as share them with family and friends!”

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