Found this while I was digging around my UNICEF files. A few years ago I was UNICEF Canada's storyteller-in-residence. I still like this short description.
STORIES AND BORDERS
“The story is our escort,” says African writer Chinua Achebe, reminding us that today’s world is full of borders. They are drawn on maps and in minds. They separate countries, groups, and generations. But stories escort us into new territory. They carry a safe-conduct and pass freely through every frontier. A story can begin in English, travel for awhile in Ojibway, grow Arabic roots, wear Xhosa robes, and wind up in Chinese. Aladdin came to Quebec and became a trickster named Ti-Jean. Wherever stories are told and valued, they help humans communicate the things that most need to be remembered. “You must invent your own literature,” writes Vivian Paley about a class of four-year-olds (in The Boy Who Would Be A Helicopter) “if you are to connect your ideas to the ideas of others.” Stories cross time as well as geography, sharing their wisdom across generations. A story, they say, is a letter sent to us from yesterday. When we receive it we add our own message and send it on to tomorrow. Long before humans fought over borderlines in the sand, we laughed together at storylines around a shared fire. Story is our first language, our universal Mother Tongue.