Why Tell Stories?

Group of American activists protesting

Humans are wired for storytelling. It is how we learn about and relate to the world around us. From movies, to campaign speeches, to restaurant recommendations from friends, we experience and share stories everyday that shape our thoughts and actions.

When we use those stories to inspire changes in the actions of our friends, families, and communities, that is called Public Narrative. Simply put, public narrative is using storytelling towards a shared goal. 

People are ignited by their emotions, which is why we focus on storytelling. But passion alone is not enough. We need to direct that passion towards a common goal. This is why public narrative cannot be done in isolation. Unlike a personal story, we must engage with the collective story of the community we are in.

We develop public narrative through deep listening. That means being an active part of the community. Remember, sharing our stories is an act of leadership that inspires others to join us in making change! So, introduce yourself to your neighbors, attend local events, join a book club! Find ways to get to know the people around you so you can have a nuanced understanding of the shared values, experiences, and beliefs you have with the people around you.

“Well-told stories help turn
moments of great crises into
moments of new beginnings.”

– Marshall Ganz

Public Narrative: A Story in 3 acts

We can imagine building a Public Narrative as telling a story in 3 acts. Those are the Story of Self (call to leadership), Story of Us (shared values and experiences), and the Story of Now (urgent issues + strategies).

Remember, Public Narrative is about the process, not strict rules! These are all guideline to help you get started. We develop our storytelling skills by sharing, listening, reflecting, and then sharing again. Make this story your own, and applicable to your community!

Feel free to play with the order of these for the most compelling version for your experiences and whoever you are talking to. What is important to remember is that all of these pieces are connected and feed into one another!

Story of SelF

We can think of the story of self as the reason you were called to speak about the issue at hand. In this part of the story, we are looking for the experiences and memories you have that make you feel passionately about the issue. Give clear images and details to paint the scene. Below are some reminders and guiding questions to keep in mind when writing your Story of Self:

Story of us

This is the point where you connect with the other person or audience. Why should they care about this issue? And why should they trust you? We want to build trust through grounding the story in the shared values, experiences, and beliefs you have with your audience. Below are some guiding questions and ideas to keep in mind when writing your Story of Us:

story of now

In the final part of the story, tell the other person what is happening right now that needs their attention. Three things to remember when discussing the current issues facing your community is to describe why the issue is urgent, why it is important, and to give them hope that they can help make a difference. Below are some guiding questions and ideas to keep in mind when writing your Story of Now:

Good Stories Have A Plot!

The key plot points to remember are the challenge you faced, the choice you made, and the outcome of your choice. Below are some guiding questions for each of these plot points.

  • When was a time you realized the value of a good education?
  • Do you remember a moment when you felt like fair access to education was being threatened?
  • Do you have any memories of engaging with ideas and experiences from other communities that had an impact on you?
  • Have you taken any classes, read books, or participated in events related to this issue?
  • In that moment, did you say or do anything?
  • Is there anything you wish you would have said or done?
  • Why did you make that choice? How do you remember feeling at the time?
  • How were your thoughts or actions different after that moment?
  • What ways have you engaged with this issue since that moment?
Shared Experiences + Beliefs

Dig into those things you relate on to find common ground and build trust in your audience that you are someone they can relate to.

Guiding Questions
  • Do you and the other person (or people in the audience) have any shared experiences?
  • Do you work at the same job?
  • Are you all religious?
  • Do you love being in nature?
  • Do you care a lot about a local school?
Values, Values, Values!

We want to highlight shared values as motivation for action. Describe how these values are impacted by the issue you care about. Paint a picture of how their values would be realized if they act or threatened if they do not take action.

Values Examples
  • Loyalty
  • Compassion
  • Honesty
  • Kindness
  • Integrity
  • Family-Oriented
  • Determination
  • Generosity
  • Tolerance
  • Community
  • Fairness
  • Justice
  • Religion
  • Safety
  • Self-Reliance
Urgent, Important, and Achievable

In the final part of the story, tell the other person what is happening right now that needs their attention. Three things to remember when discussing the current issues facing your community is to describe why the issue is urgent, why it is important, and to give them hope that they can help make a difference.

Urgent + Important
  • Link the sense of urgency to the shared values from the story of us.
  • Describe how your shared values are under threat in the current moment.
  • Describe how action taken now will help to ensure your ability to continue to practice your values.
Give Hope

The urgency + importance of an issue can often be upsetting.

We need to also leave the audience with hope that the world can change.

Paint a picture of a world where your goals are achieved.

Remind the audience that they can make a difference!

Practice exercises

1. In what ways do you engage with your community? What new ways would you like to try engaging with your community?
2. Using the guiding questions from the Story of Self plot points, describe why it’s important that all students– regardless of how they look, live and love– feel included, supported and safe in school.
3. Using the list of values above as an example, name five values or experiences you share with your community that relate to the reason education matters to you.
4. Using the shared values and experiences you listed, describe why members of your community should join you in fighting for high quality education for all students. (i.e. “We all care about ___ so we should all care about this issue.)
5. Tell us what current issues or opportunities around education are happening in your community? What can be done about those things? Why should we take action now?

Put it All together: The story of you!

You did it! Combine your practice responses from questions 2-5 to create your own public narrative. And when you are finished, share it with us! With all our voices together, we can make a difference!

Remember, this is a guideline, not a rule book. The best way to develop this skill is to practice! Every time you work your storytelling muscles by engaging your friends, family, and neighbors, your story will improve. As you continue to mold your story, the feedback and responses from your audience will help you grow as a speaker and add nuance to your understanding of the issue, making you a better advocate. Whether talking to a family member or speaking at your local parents’ group, remember that your stories have the ability to change minds and make a difference. So, use your voice!

Want to start the conversation with your community? Download the Empower app and invite 3 people you know who also want to discuss these important issues. Together with our communities, we can find new solutions, and make real changes.  

Evergreen Actions

The culture war and the hyper polarization hurts all of us, but it’s hardest on students. Join the monthly state briefing call to keep-up to date on what’s happening around the country.

You can track legislation here

Register to vote and vote, especially at the local, school board level. Many decisions to ban books, block educators from teaching Black History, or even talk about racism are happening at the local level where older and whiter voters are the most likely to turnout.

Make sure your friends and family vote as well! 

Download the free empower app to talk to people you know about what Black History Year Around means to you. 

Share your story, and invite others to share theirs!

Find an Affiliate near you:

upcoming Events

The Power of Public NarrativeWe all have a story to tell, but storytelling is about more than sharing our personal experiences. When used towards a political objective, in combination with what we learn from our community, our stories can ignite a spark for change and direct passion towards a shared purpose. In this interactive workshop we will discuss how to best use storytelling and public narrative as leadership tools to inspire others to recognize both their own power and the power of collective action.
5 – 6pm CDTVirtual
State Intelligence Briefing CallThe monthly State Intelligence Briefing call will gather parents, educators, and community stakeholders working hard across the country pushing back against the movement to dismantle public education through legislation, regulatory actions and school board activity that censors educators, pits parents against their local schools and and stokes anger and fear in communities–all for political gain.
11am – 12pm CDTVirtual




Reading Lists

three children reading books sitting on cushions

I ran for the school board in Pleasantville because I believe all children deserve to receive the best educational and emotional support. I’m a mother of three students who currently attend Pleasantville public schools, and my fourth child will be enrolling this fall. Pleasantville is a diverse city in southern New Jersey with classrooms filled with Black and Latino students and teachers. Which is why I was surprised when my son told me how rare it is for his lessons to mention the history and contribution of communities of color in this country.

Learning about the lack of accurate history being taught, and the reality that students of color and those living in poverty were denied the same resources present in nearby school districts pushed me to run for the school board. I was determined that these students have a fair opportunity to succeed. When I was elected, I was truly honored to have the chance to work with my fellow board members and the rest of the community to make our school district reach the potential that I know it can reach.

Now, I feel like we are really starting to see change, and that the students can see it too. Just last month, the high school held their first Juneteenth celebration. While that is a great start, I don’t want it to end there. I’m hoping for next year to be a community-wide event that gives students a clear understanding of the past and a chance to celebrate the future. To me, being on the school board makes me feel like I can make a real difference in the education of my children, and of all the children in my community. If I had to say something to all the parents in the district, it would be to not be afraid to run for something, join an organization, or find a way to get involved in making our schools safer, healthier places.

Cassandra Clements

School Board Member, Pleasantville Board of Education

We needed 283 votes to save our school. Little Red is a K-4 school, the only school in Croydon. The older students are allowed to choose one of the nearby middle and high schools to attend, and our district covers the expenses. That’s how the original budget worked at least.  

We got our last big snowstorm in March, on the day of the annual school budget vote. Anti-public-school extremists used the resulting low turnout to slash the district budget in half. It passed and I was in disbelief. With the new budget, Little Red would close, and Croydon parents would have to pay $8,000- $9,000 per student to send them to public schools. I was devastated thinking of what this meant for my 3 children and all the students I taught every day.  

Other parents felt just like I did. Stand up for Croydon Students, the organization we eventually formed, started off as just a group of worried parents trying to figure out how to protect our children. We eventually found a way that would allow for a budget re-vote, but only if we were able to turn out 283 voters. Croydon is home to about 800 people, and in my time on the school board, only about 50 of them usually came out to vote.

So, we got to work. We spent the next few weeks drafting up petitions, posting lawn signs, calling neighbors, and knocking on doors. To see so many people come together to protect our children, it felt good to know that your neighbors really care about the community.  

It was the first week of May and the YMCA camp dining hall was packed with friends and neighbors. Still, we couldn’t risk not having enough voters turn up, and spent the morning calling to remind everyone how important it was to come out, vote, and protect our schools. The hall was bubbling with energy as the vote was counted, and in a landslide vote of 377 – 2, we won. Weeks of hard work paid off.  

In that moment, we had stood up against extreme politicians to say no to privatizing our schools, that we would fight to make sure that all our students had a quality education. We proved that when we fight together, we win.  

Thomas Moore
High School STEM Teacher, New Hampshire

some caption text

I’ve participated with Home Visit Partnerships for several years, and when I visit a student’s home, I love when they show me their favorite books. As a teacher, I hope every family I visit has a home library for their children, but unfortunately, this is rarely the case. Research has shown a home library increases vocabulary development, academic success, and an overall life success.

During one visit with a kindergarten student, I realized there were no books in the home at all. I began sending books home with the student throughout the fall and, when I visited their home again in the spring, the family had purchased a small bookcase to hold all the books. They were so proud to have a home library for their little reader!

Donate today to provide books for young students!

I will never forget how my student grabbed a book off their shelf and hopped up next to me and started reading. Then, their 3-year-old sibling grabbed a book and hopped up on my lap next to us and started “reading” by flipping through and looking at the pictures.

That moment highlighted the importance of making sure all my students have access to books. My student isn’t just learning how to read, they’re developing their love for reading and the skills to help them succeed in school and life.

Home Visit Partnerships has teamed up with Unite for Literacy to change the book deserts in North Texas into book gardens. By donating today, you are helping HVP teachers to build home libraries for their students and families, changing the trajectory of a child’s life.

With your gift, you will help plant the seeds for a child’s love of reading to flourish.

Last week, Stand for Children put nearly 2,000 families in touch with their representatives in Washington D.C. to talk about how the expanded Child Tax Credit has made a difference in their lives.

Many families who shared their stories have been affected by illness, disability and other major hardships that strained their finances. Thanks to the expanded CTC, these families and countless others are now able to give their children what they need to grow and thrive. But as of now, the expanded CTC is set to expire at the end of 2021.

Sign the petition today to stand with American families and tell lawmakers in Washington that you want the expanded CTC to be made permanent!

Today, advocates and champions, including members of Congress and leaders, are coming together in D.C. to call for an expanded CTC as well as paid family/medical leave, childcare, home-and community-based services for older people and people with disabilities, living wages and a path to citizenship for all care workers as part of the reconciliation package. Tune in to this event on Facebook at 12:30pm ET to hear stories that highlight the urgent need for a care infrastructure to lift businesses, families, and our economy.

I first got involved with Stand for Children Louisiana because my girlfriend and I wanted to educate ourselves to be stronger advocates for our young children in their educational journey. We didn’t realize how much support our family needed until we joined Stand Louisiana.

The support and guidance we received from Stand Louisiana has helped us transition into engaged parents at our children’s school. My involvement with the organization helped me recognize where I could use my voice to bring about the change I want to see in my community.

One of my proudest moments with Stand Louisiana was joining staff and other members for the March 2021 Caravan for Justice. Juvenile justice reform is something I am passionate about because I’ve been affected by the flaws in our judicial system. Attending the Caravan for Justice made me realize I can bring awareness to the issue and work with others to bring about long overdue change.

I am grateful for Stand for Children Louisiana recognizing my family’s commitment to continuing to raise our voices. The direct payment awarded by Capital Area United Way and Stand Louisiana will be used improve the reliability of our household’s technology and connectivity so I can improve my skills in my current field: auto mechanic. Like millions of families around the world, our finances were affected by COVID-19. This gift will help us as we continue to work for better outcomes for our family. 

This is one post in a series made possible by a grant from Capital Area United Way. The grant allowed Stand for Children Louisiana to provide direct cash transfers to twelve qualified members to support quality early education and/or continuing adult education.

As a school trustee, I participate in the governance of an incredibly diverse district in San Antonio, Texas – rich with tremendous cultural wealth. I appreciate Learn from History’s work to ensure that all students are taught an accurate and thorough history to ensure we don’t repeat the mistakes of the past. And that requires that we teach all of our history, both the triumphs and the tragedies.

While serving, I have engaged with parents and guardians on both sides of the discussion who have bonafide concerns and fears. I can relate as a parent to three exceptional children. Unfortunately, we have been put in these challenging positions by policymakers who focus more on the outcomes of their elections rather than the outcomes of students. It should go without saying, but all students deserve a rich academic experience.

I am also a firm believer in educating parents and guardians to ensure issue distortion and misinformation don’t blind them to the realities of what balanced, responsible, and age-appropriate classroom discussions can be when talking about fact-based history with our children. I think one of the best ways to do that is through sharing your story so we can get past the rhetoric and be reminded of what we have in common — that we all want what is best for students.

That’s why I’m sharing my story and am asking you to share your story too.

Having support from the Learn from History coalition has motivated me to be more proactive as an advocate for this issue and help bring others along. Dozens of teachers, students, and parents have spoken up about how this issue is affecting them. But we know they aren’t the only ones out there.

I hope you’ll share your story today and take a stand for students’ right to a high-quality education.


Millions of families across the country are now two months in to receiving the expanded Child Tax Credit (CTC) payments. Are you among them?

Stand for Children wants to hear how your family is spending these extra funds so that we can show lawmakers in Washington how investing in families pays off.

Hear from Devony Audet, a parent fellow with Stand for Children Washington, about how the tax credit is helping her family gear up for back to school season.

We’d love to hear from you, too! Record your own video and send it to [email protected].

Did you know that starting today, families all across the country will start receiving payments from the expanded Child Tax Credit?

When I heard this news, I was so relieved! It’s going to help out my children so much and will cover the costs of everything they need to be happy and healthy kids.

Raising a family is so expensive, but that shouldn’t be the case. I’m the mother of three little ones, and while I would love to have a job and bring in income, right now I need to stay home with them because daycare just costs too much.

My husband is the main provider, but being a family of five on one income makes it difficult to pay all our bills month to month and buy groceries, medicine, clothing, and all the things kids need as they grow up.

The Child Tax Credit payments will help us cover the cost of child care so I can join my husband and earn money for our family.

Go to to learn more and find out if your family will receive the benefit.