The Power of Stories

Why stories?

We Engage 4 Health will be filled with stories…

  • comic style stories told by a cast of neighborhood characters,
  • photo stories told by citizen scientists participating in the project, and
  • data stories based on community data collected in the project 

It’s no surprise that people enjoy stories—we have been telling them for thousands of years! Not only do we enjoy stories, but we remember them much more easily than things like lists of facts. 

Modern research into how our brains work clues us in to why stories are both pleasurable and powerful! Scientists know that using language (talking or reading) activates Wernicke’s area of the brain where words are processed. That happens no matter what kind of reading or conversation is going on.

But… when listening to or reading a story, many other parts of the brain are activated, depending on events and descriptions in the story. The brain responds to story events as if they are actually happening to the reader or listener! You can read more about this effect in the article “The Science of Storytelling: Why Telling a Story is the Most Powerful Way to Activate Our Brains.”

Another cool effect of stories is that character-driven stories with emotional content prompt the brain to make more of a chemical called oxytocin. Oxytocin boosts the empathy and motivation of listeners. You can read more about this effect in the article “Your Brain On Stories.”

What's a comic style story?

  • People have been using drawings to communicate ideas for thousands of years, but the combination of drawings are words we call a comic book or graphic novel first became popular in the USA with the superhero comics of the 1930’s. 
  • While many people in the USA think of comic or graphic style stories as something just for kids, in other countries, especially Japan, this style of story has always been available for every age and in every genre.   
  • The comic or graphic style story is perfect for sharing health information with a wide audience because graphic stories can present complex material with engaging graphics and readable text. Learn about using comics for teaching and learning in Stephen Cary’s Going Graphic: Comics at Work in the Multilingual Classroom.
  • For We Engage 4 Health, community members in Cincinnati’s West End developed a cast of neighborhood characters to tell health stories for the project. This cast of characters will continue to develop as new communities become active in the project and have a chance to add characters of their own.

Start with a story

Read Our Stories

Pops, Miss Georgia, Vito, Jazzy, Cardi, and Big Sam have stories to share! Check some of them out here!

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Meet Big Sam

Big Sam is a 40-something security guard at the high school Jazzy and Vito attend. Big Sam is worried about his health and recently found out his blood pressure is high. He covers up his worries with jokes. He lives in the apartment above Miss Georgia.

Meet Jazzy

Jazzy is a cheerful younger high school age girl. She is a cheerleader and does gymnastics. She enjoys spending time with older people and loves to bake with Miss Georgia. She has asthma and works hard to control it so she can enjoy her activities.

Meet Cardi

Cardi is a 30-something aerobics teacher at the community center who loves to help people get more fit and healthy but can be a bit too much “in your face” about it. She means well though!

Meet Vito

Vito is a plays-it-cool older high schooler who is sweet-natured at heart. He plays basketball at the community center and is friends with Jazzy. He loves pop and chips and can’t see why eating all he wants of them is a problem.

Meet Pops

Pops is a retired high school science teacher who loves to keep helping people learn about science and health. He likes to check out what everyone is doing or talking about and step in to give his opinion.

Meet Miss Georgia

Miss Georgia is a fun-loving lady in her 50’s who loves to sing, dance, and bake. She is always helping out at community events. She recently found out she has diabetes, and she is learning new ways to cook.