4 Simple Storytelling Tips to Teach Parents

Sharing stories with your family.

Oral storytelling is a timeless tradition and includes tall tales, folktales, fairy tales, and even family stories. It creates a special connection between storyteller and listeners, and it also offers a literacy-rich experience that prepares young children for future reading success.

When a child’s attention is captured by an oral story rich with details, she can visualize what’s happening, follow the rise and fall of the storyline and the sequence of events, and infer emotion from the storyteller’s intonation, facial expression and body language — all skills that are crucial to future independent reading comprehension (Mokhtar et al., 2011). Caregivers can learn the best way to present an oral story — whether a family story or a favorite traditional tale — by listening with their children to skillfully delivered oral stories during library storytimes.

Promote the benefit of sharing stories by modeling these four effective storytelling techniques for parents, and encourage them to continue the practices at home:

  • Invite active participation by telling stories with repetitive phrases. This encourages children to listen attentively by leading them to anticipate their next chance to join in on a fun refrain, such as shouting “Boom!” at key points in the story. This attention to sounds and phrases not only makes the story interactive, it also develops phonemic awareness — the ability to identify and differentiate sounds.
  • Asking simple questions can involve even the youngest listener in the story (e.g., “What sounds do you think the puppy made when he was hungry?”). More complex questions, such as “What do you think the wolf said to the three little pigs?”, invite children to use their predicting and critical thinking skills as they become participants in the storytelling.
  • Stories don’t have to be new to be engaging — children often clamor to hear the same stories again and again. Encourage caregivers to repeat traditional family stories, as well as beloved fairy tales or folktales. According to the National Association for the Education of Young Children, these retellings can be powerful tools for modeling narrative development, increasing language and developing comprehension skills in pre-readers. The first telling allows children to pick up details of the story, the second telling lets them connect and clarify those details, and the third telling builds a deeper understanding and reinforces memory for their own retelling (Isbell, 2002). Each retelling offers yet another opportunity for children to delve deeper into the story and learn something new.
  • After telling a story several times, encourage children to tell their own stories. When making their first attempt at storytelling, children often retell stories that they’ve heard again and again. Retelling familiar tales helps children grasp the basic narrative framework of characters, setting and plot. As their narrative abilities grow, they learn to manipulate those elements to form their own stories. Having children tell familiar stories also fosters vocabulary growth, as children reuse words and phrases from the original narrative (Isbell, 2002).

The benefits of sharing stories with children are far-reaching. By encouraging caregivers to find moments in their daily routines for sharing stories with their children, librarians can help nurture the connection between caregiver and child while setting the stage for children to become successful readers.

To give parents more ideas on how to boost their child’s literacy skills, download 10 Tips for Sharing Stories, which features simple tips to help caregivers weave storytelling into their family’s daily routines.

Additional Resources

Demco’s Early Literacy Pinterest Board

The Very Ready Reading Program

Isbell, Rebecca T. (2002, March). “Supporting Language Learning: Telling and Retelling Stories, Learning Language and Literacy.” Young Children.
Mokhtar, Nor Hasni et al. (2011). “The Effectiveness of Storytelling in Enhancing Communicative Skills.” Procedia Social and Behavioral Sciences 18: 163–169.


Liz Bowie

Liz Bowie

Marketing Content Manager at Demco, Inc.
Liz is the Marketing Content Manager for Demco. Her background includes editorial management and product development of innovative and time-saving tools for schools and libraries, with an emphasis on Common Core, literacy and math. The products she and her team have developed, including classroom games, learning centers and professional development resources, have garnered 46 industry awards for excellence in education. Liz is passionate about promoting literacy through her work and the work of others. If you are interested in sharing your ideas and programming tips on Demco’s Ideas and Inspiration blog or have ideas for topics you’d like to see covered, contact Liz at lizb@demco.com