Importance of Storytelling for Children

by Penelope Longfellow

Storytelling has been around since humans began, but the venues for storytelling have changed significantly since then. Television, movies, computers and smartphones present shinier, flashier, more technologically impressive stories. Storytelling, however, still has importance for children, in particular, according to both and the Corporation for National and Community Service. Storytelling teaches children about the world, provides real-world social interaction, and develops both a knowledge and love for stories themselves.

A Cultural Meet and Greet

Children can learn about the world from storytellers.

Children are fairly new to the planet and storytelling teaches them a lot about the way life works around here. Through stories, they hear about characters who are good, bad and in-between. They see a dramatic representation of problems, how characters choose to solve them and the positive and negative consequences of those choices. They meet characters from their own culture and others, and become familiar with a range of customs, personalities and points of view. The stories of others can help children deal with their own life experiences, both big and small.

A Social Experience

Storytelling encourages a social bond between a storyteller and the listening child.

Unlike any television show, movie, video game or app, storytelling provides a fun experience for children with real, live human interaction. Caught up in the story's events as they unfold, children respond with emotional reactions and questions for the storyteller. They chime in with the storyteller's songs or other narrative tactics. Storytelling provides children with the opportunity to practice social skills such as listening, making eye contact and taking turns.

A Lesson in Telling their Own Stories

Children pick up on the words, gestures and emotional expressions that tell a good story.

As children listen to stories, they become familiar with the art and practice of storytelling itself. They internalize the rhythms and tones of a storyteller's words and, through those elements, come to know what makes stories interesting, exciting, funny and sad. They learn through observation how to pair gestures and words to bring characters and their actions to life. They hear unfamiliar words whose meanings they can piece together through the context of the story, increasing their vocabularies in a meaningful, lasting way. Regularly seeing public speaking in action, children become more comfortable with oral communication in general, helping them to tell their own stories in an effective way.

A Key Ingredient of Literacy

Storytelling helps spark a child's interest in reading and writing.

Storytelling acts as fuel for the fire of literacy in a child's development. Hearing a story they love can inspire interest in learning more about a given topic. Stories tend to be addictive in the best way possible and can encourage children to read more stories and write them, too. Storytelling surreptitiously teaches children the elements of a story, helping them devise their own narrative beginnings, middles and ends.

About the Author

Penelope Longfellow has been writing professionally since 2001. She holds a graduate certificate in writing from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, as well as an M.F.A. in creative writing from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. Longfellow's work has appeared at and in "Cape Fear Parent" magazine.

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