I just finished The Violinist's Thumb by Sam Kean. Not a story book at all. HOWEVER, Kean tells the stories of how dozens of scientists, explorers, and other learned folks - to say nothing of isolated Scandinavian villagers and good old Neanderthal - contributed to what we know about DNA, the building block of our very selves.
If Kean had given his readers, "Just the facts, Ma'am," as Joe Friday was wont to say, I would never have finished the book. The science is daunting - all those A's and C's and G's and T's and mitochondria and mtDNA and messenger RNA and, please, please DON'T ask me what these things are (I sort of know but I will bungle it, I'm sure). But the stories, the life histories, the theories, the mangled logic, the loves, the victories and failures...the embarrassments and personalities - even the insane experiments - add them all together and you have a page turner. Man, that Sam Kean can sure tell a good story.
And after we find out everything that is now known about DNA, Kean tells us stories of how scientists hope to use what they have learned. DNA is awesome. We, this world, all living things - totally awesome and scary and thrilling and wow.... Read the book.
Storytelling is a most effective way to get humans to swallow facts and remember them. There is an organization dedicated to helping educators teach through storytelling. Good Stories for Good Learning is made up of storytellers and educators who have seen how their personal stories have made the subjects they were teaching become real to their students. Adding stories, your own or folktales or riddle tales or other people's stories, brings life to learning. Try it.
There are studies that have shown how the brain reacts to stories differently than to lectures, and there are studies that have proven that students remember the stories they hear - and the facts attached to the stories - longer than those facts without stories. (And, yes, I promise to share links to some of those studies soon but I am already a DAY LATE with this post, OK? You can trust me. Honest.)
So the next time you want to make a point, or help someone remember a fact, or teach something to someone, do what Sam Kean did in his book and what effective teachers are doing in classrooms all over the place - AND what humans have been doing since language began. Tell a story.