Blog Posts Storytelling

Migration and the danger of the single story

Here is the second of my blog posts about storytelling.

While I was researching for my dissertation last year, I came across this inspiring TED Talk on “The Danger of the Single Story”, by Chimamanda Adichie.

Adichie talks about the dangers of stereotypes, and the dangers of seeing only a single story about people. She grew up in Nigeria and talks about the ‘single stories’ she read as a child, which did not show children from her own background, but rather from a white, Western background. She also talks about how her American room mate at college had a preconceived idea about her being poor and listening to tribal music, as she came from Nigeria.

It strikes me that we are always in danger of stereotyping people from different backgrounds with single stories.

Since the European enlargement in 2004, there has been wide migration which has the opportunity to enrich the stories we know about each other by getting to know people from other cultures: their backgrounds, traditions and histories.

So often though, the single stories are the loudest and unfortunately these can be the most negative. For example, a common story heard in migration from Poland has been ‘they steal our jobs’. Stories like that lead to stereotypes and discrimination. This website illustrates this and it is worth reading the stories told by two different individuals about their experience of migration to the UK:

Article 29 (c) of The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, explains that education should be towards:

The development of respect for the child’s parents, his or her own cultural identity, language and values, for the national values of the country in which the child is living, the country from which he or she may originate, and for civilisations different from his or her own


In education, we cannot have a single story. Right from our early education settings and initiatives, we need multiple stories, that convey understanding and respect. We need to give people the space to share their stories and to be understood and respected.

Here’s some ideas for practitioners to avoid the danger of a single story:

  • Invite children and parents to share stories from their background.
  • Include story projects where families can share their own stories and experiences.
  • Try not to stereotype the children or families you work with, no matter what you hear in the news/ social media.
  • Get to know families better by inviting them into the setting, for example for a coffee morning. Learn about each others’ traditions, important celebrations and other stories people want to share.

If you would like more ideas, or some specific input in your setting, don’t hesitate to get in touch!

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