Storytelling Leads to Literacy

The art of storytelling is old – ancient, actually, if you consider the prehistoric paintings found in a cave at Lascaux, France in 1940. No doubt, those paintings were accompanied by stories told by cave dwellers.

Today, this art form is still popular, especially with children. Their first exposure to it is often in a library, where children’s programs may include visits from well-known storytellers. Some of those visitors may even be authors of children’s books.

The Influence of a Good Storyteller

A person who "spins yarns" well can ignite an enthusiasm for stories in children that will eventually lead them to begin exploring books for themselves. One of the most important things a person can do before beginning a story, however, is to make sure he or she knows the audience. What are their interests? How advanced is their language development?

Children exposed to storytelling at a young age are positively impacted in several ways, through:

  • Learning how to listen better.
  • Adding new words to their vocabulary.
  • Getting the chance to exercise their imagination.

Wordless Books and Imagination

Illustrated books without words (wordless picture books) are ideal for helping children develop their own dramatic skills. Teachers can use these books in combination with writing exercises, encouraging students to write stories to go with the pictures.

Not only does this help develop their imagination, it also gives them a head start on what may someday become their profession: writing books! (Several well-known authors discovered a love for writing as youngsters, and continued it into adulthood.)

Experts say that wordless books also help children develop skills in observing, comparing, and organizing – valuable assets they’ll be able to use in every aspect of their lives.

Great Wordless Books

Listed below are just a few of the many popular wordless books for children that are available in libraries, in bookstores, or online:


Sharing Stories in the Classroom

If you’re a teacher, you have a built-in audience. Whether you’re the one telling the story, or you take your class to a library where professionals share folk tales from all over the world, I encourage you to explore this tradition further. If you’re looking for ways to improve your own skills, or are just curious to learn more about it, take a look at the resources I’ve listed below.

Want to Become a Storyteller?

If you’re interested in learning this ancient art yourself, look for classes, festivals, and workshops in your area. People who are serious about improving their skills, though, may need to travel quite a distance. I knew one woman who traveled from California to Jonesborough, Tennessee in order to participate in the annual National Storytelling Festival.

This event began in 1973 in an effort to attract tourists to Jonesborough. The festival now attracts over 10,000 people each year. According to Jimmy Neil Smith, president of the International Storytelling Center, there are at least 200 full-time storytellers around the country, and hundreds more who do it part-time.

Other resources include:



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