Most parents are aware of the importance of reading to their children, and how reading aloud develops their children’s literacy skills, positive attitude towards reading and the love of books. However, many are not aware about the power of oral storytelling in the development of literacy skills. Below are some ways in which storytelling benefits children’s education:

Storytelling develops literacy. Literacy development is not only reading. It includes the skills of writing as well. Listening to and telling stories help children see the way in which a story develops, as well as its structure and sequence. They also learn the purpose and power of adjectives as they describe the settings and actions of the story. This bank of knowledge links the reading and writing processes, and frequent opportunities to tell stories help children build the linguistic skills required for both reading and writing.

Storytelling develops story structure. As children listen to a new story being told, they see that all stories have a predictable structure and that they are created by people. They are exposed to new vocabulary, hear it used in differing situations within stories, and through multiple exposures to the words, learn them for themselves. Parents can tell both their own stories and those from books to their children. Some parents are not good readers, and telling the story allows them the freedom to bring the story to life without the need to be word perfect.

Storytelling develops knowledge base. Contrary to popular belief, reading is not only the ability to decipher the words on a page. Reading requires the reader to interact with the words and to construct meaning from them. To be able to do this, the reader must have some prior knowledge on which to base this interaction. Storytelling allows children to develop a knowledge base which can be used as a scaffold to support them as they develop the intricate skills that enable them to read.

Storytelling enhances listening skills. Much of the instruction in the schools is presented verbally, and the development of strong listening skills is essential. Many children who have difficulty learning to read have weak listening skills. Storytelling allows children to practice these skills as they engage with both the teller and the story. Without the page to focus on and no pictures support them, the listener is required to interact with the teller, visualize the characters, the settings, the action and create mental images as they follow, feel and think about the message told. They become more in tune with the both spoken word and the story.

Children love to listen to stories because they create magic and a sense of wonder at the world for them. Additionally, stories broaden children’s horizons by enhancing their intercultural understanding and communication, and teach them about life, about themselves and about others. Through stories children can explore their own cultural roots, experience diverse cultures, develop an understanding about different traditions and values, learn to empathize with unfamiliar people, places and situations, and gain insights into universal life experiences that show the commonalities of people around the world.

Furthermore, storytelling encourages the use of children’s imagination and creativity, and increases their verbal proficiency, listening, reading and writing skills. So with all of these benefits, can you think of a good story to share with your family tonight?

Elizabeth Hamilton, M.Ed, MA, is a teacher with 26 years of professional experience. You can write to her at with your questions or comments.

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