Early Childhood Literacy and Storytelling


                                                    Marilyn Kinsella and the collective thoughts of others

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Although reading a story may also contribute to the following, it is important to remember that the big difference is that, in reading, it is the book that is telling the story, and in storytelling it is the teller who is telling the story. In Storytelling there is an immediacy that is missing while tied to a book. And the biggest difference is in using the *imagination.  When reading a picture book, the child sees the pictures in the book. When listening to a story told, the child is the artist of the story.

Here are some of the advantages to listening to stories as they prepare the child for reading:

Voice recognition - the use of character voices and one's own natural narrative voice.

Facial, vocal, body language, gesture - these provide the young listener ways to "hear" a story with actual words. These cues are valuable in "reading" others reactions.

Mood identification - Is a character sad, happy, shy, stubborn, helpful, grateful? Why are they displaying these moods?

Enthusiasm over words and stories - Once a child hears a story well-told they are anxious to find the written story, so they can enjoy it over and over.

New vocabulary words - a story naturally wraps itself around new words providing a context for the word's meaning.


"Imagery activity may be a key to the building blocks of intelligence and education. When the brain images the brain releases endorphins and recent research has demonstrated that imagery also expands the size of the brain through the growth of new dendrites which are the branching protoplasmic processes that conduct impulses toward the body of a nerve cell. Imagery therefore speeds communication within the cells and between the cells in the brain. Imagery building skills from oral word paintings involve a process of conscious thought that transfers to reading imagery skills. If you visualize what you hear, you facilitate the ability to visualize what you read."   Chuck Larkin  (from the College of Medicine, University of North Carolina and the US Department of Education dated 1986)

 Literary skills are strengthened by:

Group and individual participation in the story. The child begins to feel a part of the story. Later on (8 or 9 years old), the participation is no longer needed as the child is ready to listen deeply.

Anticipation and Prediction - This is the first step into identifying cause and effect, an essential part of reading comprehension

Character - the child begins to empathize with the character and his/her situation and often sees his/herself identifying with the character(s)

Development of a plot. The plots start simply with a beginning, then usually three actions before the resolution and then the ending. Having the child repeat the action of the story, readies them for more complex plots as they mature.

Opportunities to discuss real and fictional happenings. Some children believe what they see and hear. These early stories give them a foundation for discerning the real word from the fantasy.

Feel the story through sensory details - The child begins to enter into the story by listening to word that enable him/her to see, hear, smell, feel, and taste.

Talk about feelings in the story of the characters and of themselves. This begins to touch on the character education traits that are taught in elementary schools.

One-on-One or Small Group Telling allows the storyteller to:

     Make a bond with the child or children

 Adjust the story as body language dictates

                Incorporate unfamiliar words within the context of the sentence

Ask what may happen next

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