Telling Stories

Main points:

  • Storytelling extends your child’s vocabulary, which can help them enjoy reading more.
  • Telling stories can shed light on the way your child sees things and help them understand other people.
  • Storytelling is a great way for your child to learn about their culture and family traditions.

What you can do

Telling stories to your child and having them tell stories to you is a great way of sharing experiences and ideas, and can help form close family connections. It will also help your child understand how stories are constructed and what makes a story interesting, which helps them develop a real curiosity and love of reading that will remain with them over a lifetime. 

Understanding feelings and seeing things in a different light

Exploring what’s happening in your child’s life through storytelling can help your child appreciate how other people feel or behave and give them ideas and ways of dealing with their own real-life concerns.
Some suggestions include:

  • Tell stories about feelings. This is one way you can interest your child in the story you’re telling even if it’s make-believe. The trick is to ‘show’ the way the character is feeling. Exploring emotions in stories helps your child understand that others have the same sorts of feelings as they do.
  • Telling a familiar story in a different way can help your child see the situation or emotion in a different light. For example: “One day Goldilocks arrives home, tired and hungry after her l-o-n-g walk. Coming through the front door, she finds three bears in the lounge room fighting over what to watch on TV...” What happens next can be woven into a story that fits with the things your child is experiencing.
  • Ask a member of your family to tell your child about a time they were excited, happy, made something or even how hard they found learning to read or write. Hearing other people’s stories and living their experiences through these stories can help your child see things differently.

Understanding your culture and family traditions

Stories about your culture can help your child understand your family values and traditions. Telling stories in another language will help your child with reading and writing in English as well.

Some suggestions include:

  • Tell stories about your home or ‘when I was little’. Showing your child photos of when you were young is a great way to start. Telling the story behind the photo – where it was taken, what happened before or after it was taken and who is in the photo – should help you talk to your child about the things you experienced and learnt and felt. Some of the best stories are not written down, but told by parents to their children who, in turn, pass these stories onto their own children.
  • Ask an older family member to tell your child stories about how your family traditions began. For example, “We always get together on the third Saturday of September because when great grandpa was a boy that was the day he discovered ...”
  • Talk about significant cultural events and what happens when your family celebrates these to show your child what is important to your family. It gives your child a sense of ‘history’ and ‘belonging’ and will help expand their vocabulary and understand how stories are structured.

Tips on storytelling

  • Vary the important roles characters play in your storytelling. Have the ‘hero’ of the story sometimes be a girl, sometimes a boy. Alternatively, tell stories where the princess saves the prince, or a girl finds the dragon and ends up becoming its rider; or where the small unnoticed boy saves the day.
  • Tell stories about your child’s hopes and wishes, such as having a birthday party, going on a holiday, or riding a bike on their own.

Related links

  • Ontario’s Ministry of Education’s Reading and Writing with Your Child – A Parent Guide – the greater the support that families provide for their children’s learning and educational progress, the more likely it is that their children will do well in school and continue on with their education.
  • Raising Children Network’s Reading and Storytelling with Babies and Children – reading aloud and sharing stories with your child is a great way to spend time together and helps promote language, literacy and brain development.
  • The Art of Storytelling – we all tell stories in ordinary day-to-day ways but what does it take to tell a story in a way that brings that story to life, that makes characters talk and sing, that transports a listener to that place in their imagination where the story entrances, entertains and inspires?
  • Storytelling Australia (Victoria) – a non-profit group dedicated to the promotion of the ancient art of oral storytelling.