Modern Life

In their own words: Why storytelling is a powerful tool for children

In a new short film and in schools across the globe, creative writing lifts students and their communities.

By Garage Staff — March 8, 2018

Paro, the young daydreamer at the center of a new short film by the same name, can’t help but see stories all around her. She’s constantly writing and drawing — during class and under the covers in bed at night. Her creative passion draws her attention away from schoolwork, leading to a confrontation with her parents and her teacher, who confiscates Paro’s beloved journal.

But when the teacher reads the girl’s stories, she sees the magic in the world Paro has summoned up — and the importance of helping her find her voice. Released by HP Studios on International Women’s Day, Paro succinctly reminds us how crucial it is to encourage children's creativity.  

Courtesy of HP Studios

“Paro” follows a girl’s journey as she secretly nurtures her passion for storytelling.

Although it's set in Kolkata, India, Paro’s story is a universal one. Research backs up how potent storytelling in school can be. It can help build confidence, teach reflective thinking and hone a child's ability to analyze. It can also make them more comfortable asking questions and saying when they don’t understand something.

 “There are lots of talented young children, but the talent lives and ends in the bubble over their head. It never comes out of that bubble,” says Sai Saraban, the writer and creative director of Paro and the founder and Chief Creative Officer of Simple Creative. At a time when trends such as changing demographics and technological innovation are remaking the world at a breakneck speed, children's ability to craft their own tales will be key to helping society thrive.

Jane Stenson, who develops storytelling workshops and co-chairs the Youth, Educators & Storytellers Alliance, agrees. “Storytelling is a foundational way we understand each other,” she says. “If I know your story, if you know my story, we can communicate on a whole bunch of different levels.”

“If I know your story, if you know my story, we can communicate on a whole bunch of different levels.”

Jane Stenson, co-chair of the Youth, Educators & Storytellers Alliance

Why tech needs creative thinkers

Those levels span a wide spectrum of skills and subjects. As society encourages children to become proficient in technology through programs like STEM courses and coding classes, making room for the humanities, such as creative writing, is important for several reasons, experts say. 

“Whether it's designing technology or evaluating technology or understanding it, there are so many social science domains that are important for guiding the process and helping us understand the impact of these technologies on individuals and on society,” says Dr. Eric Klopfer, professor and Director of the Scheller Teacher Education Program and the Education Arcade at MIT.

Plus, as tasks within our economies become increasingly automated, developing children’s imaginations along with technology skills will be critical not just for adapting to new kinds of jobs, but for carving out meaningful work for humans.

“It’s not arts or math, it’s arts and math,” says Ruth Catchen, an education consultant who develops arts integrated STEM/STEAM programs for schools. “We don’t know what kinds of jobs we’ll need to do in the future, so we’ll need to be able to think creatively to figure that out.”

Students work on their stories at a Rakonto workshop in Ghana.

Courtesy of Rakonto

Students work on their stories at a Rakonto workshop in Ghana.

Training the art of storytelling 

Creating more of these kinds of opportunities for children like Paro all around the world is what inspired Sawyer Altman, a young entrepreneur and graduate of Stanford University’s School of Education, to craft a unique creative writing model for students in developing countries. To broaden the largely top-down pedagogical approach found in these schools, Altman’s startup, Rakonto, has trained teachers and students in South Africa, India, and Ghana in the art of storytelling. “The collaborative experience of creating a story, of being in charge of their own story,” says Altman, “that’s important to each of these children.”

Rakonto’s own story has a neat twist: The workshops are paid for in part by sponsors who subscribe to get a new book of professionally illustrated stories written by students in the workshops either monthly, every six months or yearly. So the development of each child’s creative voice supports the development of the next child’s. 

Courtesy of HP Studios

HP teams up with Girl Rising

To support its commitment to encouraging diverse voices, HP is using Paro's launch to kick off a six-month collaboration with Girl Rising, centering on a worldwide community storytelling challenge. Beginning in April and culminating with the announcement of the winners on October 11, International Day of the Girl, the challenge encourages entrants to share a personal story using whatever their preferred technology may be — pen and paper, a photograph, a video or an audio recording. Winners will receive micro grants, HP products and services and access to mentors to help them amplify their voices.

“Paro was created to spark discussion about dreaming big and chasing your passions, no matter your background or where you are in the world,” says Antonio Lucio, Chief Marketing and Communications Officer at HP Inc. “We believe that powerful stories — told vividly and authentically — can change minds and spark action.”

 “Everything starts with a story, and these community-driven projects serve as a catalyst for impact and long-term social change,” says Christina Lowery, CEO of Girl Rising. Because spreading the storytelling magic isn’t just important for children here and now  —  it’s important for the future.


Learn more about Paro, HP and Girl Rising’s partnership at

And visit between April and June to enter and share your own story.