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The Importance of Storytelling

Dear Debi,
We recently moved to Florida from Cuba, with our 2-year-old son. I am still learning English and find books difficult to read. How can I tell my son bedtime stories without the struggle of reading?
Malou Javier
Debi's Tips
Debi Gutierrez
Debi Gutierrez
  • Storytelling develops language & literacy skills
  • Have your child make up stories
  • Share family stories
  • Storytelling is great no matter your literacy level
Expert Advice
Marilyn McConnie
Marilyn McConnie
UCLA instructor, Children’s literacy specialist
Storytelling is different than story reading with books because you have to create a whole story through your imagination. It gives adults who are learning English themselves a way to enhance their own literacy skills through dialogue, speech, and activities. Parents can talk about their heritage by showing pictures, having their child draw what they think is going to happen next in the story, and it encourages kids to ask questions.

For parents and providers who are having a difficult time with reading, storytelling without a book is a great learning tool to help them boost their vocabulary skills and make story time interactive. The whole concept about family literacy is getting the whole family involved and learning together.

Everyone has traditional oral stories that should be handed down. When you tell a child an oral story, it’s a great way of carrying on traditions and bonding. It can also be a good way of opening up conversation.

Remember, the same story can exist in different languages and can have different interpretations. For example, if a child says her teacher told her the story of Cinderella, you can have a child tell you the story they heard and then you can tell them about the version you grew up with. This not only encourages bonding, but also enhances kids’ comprehension of stories and their language development.

Structure is important when telling a good story, in addition to details about the setting – where the story takes place. Other important elements to telling a good story are the characters which are propelling the story as well as what is the problem or challenge the characters must overcome in the story. At the end, of course, a story must have a resolution to the problem.

For young children age 3 and under, remember to tell stories that teach phonemic awareness – differentiating between different sounds. The stories should have many different sounds. At that age, there doesn’t need to be a complicated plot.
Child Care provider Comments
Rob Morhaim
Rob Morhaim
Father of two
As much as we love books, we love telling stories without books because it gives my children a chance to let their imaginations fly. I’ll show them pictures of me as a little boy and the things I liked to do. I’ll create stories about my first time getting on a bike and scraping my knee, then my kids will point to my knee. Story time is a great way to involve all your kids and let them learn about your own heritage.
Carol Woods
Carol Woods
Grandmother of eleven
When I tell stories to my grandchild, Derrick, I become very animated and act things out. I change my tone of voice or do a crazy walk. It keeps children interested because it keeps them entertained and also helps them remember elements of the story, thus helping their memories.
Sonnia Corzo
Sonnia Corzo
Child care provider for 6 years, mother of four
I use storytelling to promote kids’ language and vocabulary. It also helps them to understand concepts like “before” and “after.” One thing I like to do is have the kids pick a favorite toy and tell us a story about it. That sparks their imaginations and encourages them to take the lead. On Monday mornings, I’ll start by telling them what happened to me over the weekend and then I’ll have each child tell me the story of what happened to them over the weekend.

Storytelling with Simple Props Featured Activity:
Storytelling with Simple Props
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Topic: Early Learning Areas
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