How the story grows…

picture books and beyond – stories and activities to share

Storytelling and the Matchbox Diary

on April 4, 2014

Matchbox Diary 2I just read an amazing and thoughtful picture book. The Matchbox Diary, written by Paul Fleischman and illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline, tells a story of a little girl meeting her great-grandfather for the first time. As they look together through his collection of matchboxes, she learns the story of his immigration to the United States.

As a little boy who couldn’t read or write, he still yearned to document his life in a diary. Rather than the written word, he chose to collect small objects that would remind him of pivotal moments in his life, keeping these objects in matchboxes he found. For instance, the matchbox containing 19 sunflower seed shells reminds him of the difficult 19 day journey on the boat to Ellis Island. His favorite matchbox contains a ticket stub from the first baseball game with his father.

This book is filled with detailed life-like illustrations that along with the text tell a story of immigration, of determination, the importance of literacy, and of love. I think it would be best for ages 5 and up as a starting point for learning about family history and the importance of telling our own stories.  Find a small box that you can use for your own “matchbox diary”. Look for an object you have kept from your childhood or from any memorable event in your life. Tell your child a story about that object. I have chosen this tiny ceramic plate.

Treasure Box
When I was a very young child, I would bother my older sister by trying to play in her doll house. My clumsy hands could have broken the precious miniatures and messed up her doll house, but it was so hard to keep my hands away! There was an old cabinet in my house that wasn’t being used for anything at the time. My parents decided to fix up that old cabinet into a doll house of my very own! My dad built a floor and cut out some windows. My mother decorated with tile, carpet and fabric scraps that were lying around. My house was furnished with tiny furniture, rugs, and dishes. One of those original dishes is this little ceramic souvenir Chicago plate. And guess what? This little plate has been in my doll house ever since!

Then have your child pick an object meaningful to her. Encourage her to tell her own story. Not only will the two of you learn about each other, but your child will also learn important literacy skills. Effective communication, a skill necessary for life, is basically the ability to tell a story well. Confidence in communication comes with practice. Telling their own stories will give a child the ability to verbalize her thoughts and feelings.

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