How to Get the Scoop on Fun Family Stories: Investigative Reporting for Kids
Would they love to dish the dirt on their dad’s antics as an adolescent?
Or discover connections and commonalities between themselves and folks four or five times their age—or more?
You can help your kids become family history reporters and uncover secrets and surprises of the generations before them.
In this article I’ll show you how to turn your next family gathering into an information treasure hunt where your kids collect intriguing facts about their relatives and create a news video to share their stories.
Why talk to Grandma? A new way to relate.
I don’t know about you, but some of my favorite childhood memories include listening to my father and his four brothers tell stories about growing up on the family farm.
Do you have similar memories?
Do your kids?
Children are innately curious. They love to ask questions, gather information and find out “why?” But even when surrounded by family they don’t see very often, kids frequently fall back upon what they already know, what’s comfortable.
They’ll text faraway friends to ask, “What’s up?” instead of talking to the aunts, uncles and grandparents sitting in the living room. They’ll join in a video game filled with familiar fictional characters before playing a real-live game with unfamiliar cousins they haven’t seen in a while.
Maybe this will help.
This presentation from ancestry.com shows how to conduct a family interview in detail. I’ll give you the basics for kids in this article.
By giving your kids a few simple tools—an alternative to video games and texting—they can act as reporters for the day and use their natural curiosity to uncover the stories that make their family special; the stories that will fill their own memories of family picnics and holiday meals with laughter.
Fortunately, our family is full of skillful storytellers. We have heard about everything from favorite family pets stealing holiday meals to car repair projects going horribly wrong. In the process, my boys have shared special times with relatives learning about their family history.
But to get them to sit down with their elders and have those crucial conversations in the first place is the hard part.
This Family Reporter project will help break the ice. It will give kids a reason to approach their grandparents or aunts and uncles and a way to take the lead in asking questions to uncover fun facts and stories and record their unique family history.
#1: Select a Family Member to Interview
Family gatherings are a great opportunity for kids to spend time with relatives they don’t see on a regular basis. And they’re the perfect place to put kids’ curiosity and investigative skills to work!
Before your family get-together, choose someone to interview. Talk about who will be in attendance and have your kids think about which relatives they’d like to get to know better.
Make a few recommendations based on what you know. Perhaps your cousin and your son share a passion for history, or maybe your aunt always wanted to be a veterinarian and your daughter is crazy about animals.
You could also suggest that your children spend time with a family member they’re not very close to or haven’t had the opportunity to get to know.
No matter how well your child thinks he or she already knows the selected relative, the goal is to learn something new and uncover some interesting stories from each person interviewed.
Do you have a bunch of kids at your family gathering? Assign each child a different relative and see what great stories they uncover from the whole family.
#2: Prepare for the Interview
A professional reporter must be prepared. Your kids should do some research and planning before the “on air” interview takes place.
Many reporters carry around a small notebook to gather data and jot down questions they plan to ask the interviewee. During the interview, they make notes about the topics discussed. After the interview, they use their notes to shape the story they want to share.
The Family Reporter Checklist (PDF) is a guide to help your kids prepare for their family interviews. Print it out and have your children read through the questions and think about what they’ll ask during their interviews.
#3: Ask Great Questions
Every family has wonderful stories family members can share with the younger generations. The key is to get people talking. To do that, ask great questions.
Encourage your kids to ask questions about the things they find most interesting. Topics may include sports and hobbies, childhood experiences, career choices, travel, favorite family memories, hopes and dreams, etc.
At the risk of personal embarrassment, have kids ask about things their parents did as children.
The goal is to uncover previously unknown facts and stories, so encourage children to ask interesting and compelling questions.
Remind children to listen closely and ask follow-up questions if they don’t understand something. The best stories often come out after a follow-up question, so prompt them to dig deeper and get below the surface.
Kids should use the Family Reporter Checklist during the conversation to take notes and make sure no questions are skipped.
#4: Report and Record the Story
After your budding reporter has gathered all of the facts, it’s time to produce a video worthy of the evening news (or at least YouTube).
Check out the fun one we found on YouTube.
To record a great news story, have your child:
- Select a favorite fact or story from the discussion
- Create an attention-grabbing headline
- Prepare a short (3- to 4-sentence) introduction for the story
- Think of 2-3 questions to ask during the “on air” interview
Remember to keep the video short and to the point.
First, use a smartphone, camera or computer/tablet to record a short clip of your child delivering the headline and introducing the story.
Next, record a 1- to 2-minute video interview with the family member who’s the source of the story. Your reporter should ask questions that lead the interviewee directly into the details of their funny or intriguing news story.
If the story your subject tells is about another family member, it’s fun to record a quick reaction or counterpoint from that person, too.
Your kids can edit the video with graphics, text or music if you’d like. A list of apps for simple video editing can be found here (this is optional). An impromptu “live on-scene” interview can be just as entertaining as an edited one.
#5: Share Your Family Findings
It’s time to go on the air and share all the wonderful family stories your kids have collected.
The tales that have been told may be new to many of the adults at your gathering, so share these great adventures with the whole family and make some new memories in the process!
After the meal or main activity, gather everyone around to watch the videos together.
If possible, broadcast the videos on a TV or computer screen so everyone can watch together. If you don’t have the equipment for that, have each child take his or her recording device around to small groups to share the stories.
After everyone has seen the “news reports,” take a little time to talk and laugh about the interesting family facts discovered and shared by your young investigative reporters.
Some Final Thoughts…
During a recent family beach vacation, my boys interviewed my sister-in-law. They learned some fascinating facts about their favorite aunt, but they also heard a few new funny stories about their dad! I’m excited they will be able to carry those memories with them forever.
Holiday parties and family gatherings are the perfect time to pass down interesting family stories. Make these events even more memorable by encouraging the younger generation to help preserve and share unique family histories and even make new memories in the process.
What do you think? Which family member would your child like to get to know better? We’d love to hear about the fun ways you’ve encouraged your kids to connect with their older relatives. Please share your stories and pictures in the comments below.
Susan is always looking for ways to bring learning to life for her two curious boys. She writes about their learning adventures at EducationPossible.com and shares literature resources at WorldForLearning.com. Other posts by Susan Williams »