Through listening to and telling stories children make tremendous gains in literacy skills, as well as emotional and social development. Below are listed major benefits of storytelling expounded in the excellent book, Children Tell Stories: Teaching and Using Storytelling in the Classroom, and elaborated on slightly by myself. Based on decades of personal experience, this manual by Martha Hamilton & Mitch Weiss, known as Beauty and the Beast Storytellers, is a thorough and thoughtful guide to both the value and procedures of teaching this powerful skill to children.
Below the two lists and a link to "The Power of Storytelling in the Classroom," which is the book's first of two chapters describing benefits, I have assembled a sample of 60+ excerpts and summaries from research studies, articles, personal anecdotes and books testifying to and documenting the educational impact of storytelling. Thanks to the following people and organizations for leading me to these sources: Donald Davis, renowned North Carolina storyteller and writer, who has articulated and extensively explored the link between oral and written language; Marilee Clark, of the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival in Provo, Utah; the National Storytelling Network, whose "storytell" listserve put me in touch with the following people: Dr Eric Miller of the World Storytelling Institute in Chennai, India; Richard Marsh, whose blog, "Richard Marsh, Bardic Storyteller," has an extensive "Storytelling in Education" page; Margaret Read MacDonald, prolific storyteller, story collector, and author, who directed me to her excellent teacher's guide, Teaching with Story: Classroom Connections to Storytelling.
Over the past fifty years hundreds of research studies have demonstrated the educational benefits of stories and storytelling. Some of these studies are actually compilations of multiple previous studies. Kendall Haven's groundbreaking book, Story Truth: The Science Behind the Startling Power of Story, which is cited several times here, was based on the findings of over 350 studies! Haven's work and many of the smaller studies attest that amid the great power of stories, the greatest impact is felt through storytelling; and within that realm the ultimate experience is not only listening to but telling stories.
In recent years many businesses have recognized and utilized the power of storytelling to communicate their message. Haven and an increasing number of writers and educators are asking why the field of education has generally paid so little attention to this powerful educational tool.
LITERACY SKILLS DEVELOPED
- Both telling and listening to stories instill a sense of joy in language and words that makes children want to read.
- Listening to and telling stories stimulate the powers of imagination and visualization, which are keys to comprehension and higher order thinking.
- In telling stories students develop their oral communication skills, which are a critical tool for real world success.
- Students who struggle with writing can build on oral language strengths to improve their writing skills.
- As student storytellers dramatically consider and convey plot, characters and emotions to an audience, they develop a visceral understanding of story structure, which increases their reading comprehension skills.
SOCIAL & PERSONAL SKILLS DEVELOPED
- Through learning and sharing tales, then coaching each other in a positive manner, a class develops a spirit of community and cooperation.
- Folktales teach about compassion, courage, honesty and other important qualities in an accessible and compelling way that helps children build stronger character.
- Students increase their confidence and self-esteem as they work to develop a story, then receive positive attention from peers.
- As they read, learn, tell and listen to international folktales, students expand their appreciation of different cultures.
Click here for full text of "The "Power of Storytelling in the Classroom," Chapter 1 of Children Tell Stories: Teaching and Using Storytelling in the Classroom, by Martha Hamilton and Mitch Weiss.
And Click here for a four minute excerpt of the documentary video that accompanies the book.
CATEGORIES OF DOCUMENTATION
Excerpts and summaries of about 60 research and scholarly studies are grouped as follows:
General Comments on Literacy Development
Brain Research - Neurological Impact of Stories
The Importance of Oral Language
Oral Skills Help Develop Writing Skills
Story-telling Is the Most Impactful Story Presentation Form
The Ultimate Gain: Students Telling Stories
Motivating and Helping Struggling Readers & Learners/ Appealing to Multiple Intelligences
Growing the Imagination, Creativity, and Higher Order Thinking Skills
Story Structure & Content Assist in Memory
Stories & Storytelling Increase Reading Comprehension
Storytelling Helps English Language Learners
Story-listening Prepares Preschoolers for Reading
GENERAL COMMENTS ON LITERACY DEVELOPMENT
“Children’s hunger for stories is constant. Every time they enter your classroom, they enter with a need for stories. Wright, A. Storytelling with children. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995.
Critical thinking skills, vocabulary, and language patterns are enhanced through use of stories.
Zabel, M. K. Storytelling, myths, and folk tales: Strategies for multicultural inclusion. Preventing School Failure, 32, 1991, Fall.
"Children process the world in story terms, using story as a structure within which to create meaning and understanding.” Haven, Kendall. Story Proof: The Science Behind the Startling Power of Story. Westport: Libraries Unlimited, 2007.
"Statistics provided to me privately by a storyteller conducting sessions for 10-12-year-olds at least twice a month in a town in the United States compare results of tests in reading assessments and oral fluency between groups exposed and not exposed to regular storytelling. These figures, covering the years 2011-2014, show that the story group improved by at least 50% and often more than 100% over the school year. Even more relevant is that the students this teller worked with were “the most troubled, low-achieving students in the grade level”. This small, unofficial study accurately reflects the anecdotal reports of storytellers in schools everywhere." Marsh, Richard, bardic storyteller. Storytelling in Education blog.
“The relationship of storytelling and successful children’s literacy development is well established.…This process (storytelling) enhanced children’s development of language and logic skills.” Cliatt, M., and J. Shaw. "The Storytime Exchange: Ways to Enhance It." Childhood Education, 64(5), pp. 293-298, 1988.
“Stories enhanced recall, retention, application of concepts into new situations, understanding, learner enthusiasm for the subject matter.” … Stories enhanced and accelerated virtually every measurable aspect of learning.” Coles, R. The Call of Stories: Teaching and the Moral Imagination. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1989.
“Storytelling has demonstrable, measurable, positive, and irreplaceable value in teaching.” Schank, R. "Every Curriculum Tells a Story." Tech Directions, 62(2), pp. 25-29, 2000.
“Recently the efficacy of early reading and storytelling exposure has been scientifically validated. It has been shown to work.” Snow, C., and M.Burns, eds. Preventing Reading Difficulties in Young Children. Washington, ton, DC: National Research Council and National Academy Press, 1998.
“New Jersey storyteller Susan Danoff is executive director of a nonprofit company providing in-class storytelling programs to inner-city schools. Her programs involve repeat visits to each participating classroom. Over an eight-year period, she collected almost 1,000 Teacher Observation Sheets describing behavioral or academic performance changes the teacher noted that the teacher felt were caused by, and should be credited to, the storytelling program. These sheets covered pre-kindergarten through fifth grade. More than half of the teachers credited storytelling with increasing attention span or helping students learn to pay attention. Almost half noted that overactive children learned to sit still and listen through storytelling. Academically, two-thirds of all teachers credited storytelling with improving student comprehension skills…Ninety-three percent of kindergarten teachers said that the program improved their students' verbal skills. More than 70 percent of other grade teachers agreed. Half of all teachers (kindergarten and above) believed that storytelling significantly improved student writing skills (including two-thirds of intermediate grade teachers.) More than 75 percent of these same teachers said that the storytelling program improved their students' critical thinking and general imagining and envisioning skills. These are all anecdotal teacher observations. Yet the consistency and acclaim evident in these results is startling. A one-hour, once-a-week (in some cases only once-a-month) storytelling program had a major and lasting impact on student behavior and language arts achievement.” Haven, Kendall. Story Proof: The Science Behind the Startling Power of Story, Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited, 2007.
“Once we recognize story structure as a prominent feature of human understanding, then we are led to re-conceive the curriculum as the set of great stories we have to tell children and recognize elementary school teachers as the storytellers of our culture.” Egan, Kay.The Educated Mind: How Cognitive Tools Shape Our Understanding, University of Chicago Press, 1997.
FULL TEXT ARTICLE (Click link here.) Miller, Sara & Lisa Pennycuff. The Power of Story: Using Storytelling to Improve Literacy Learning. Journal of Cross-Disciplinary Perspectives in Education. Vol 1, No 1 (May 2008) 36-43
NATIONAL COUNCIL OF TEACHERS OF ENGLISH Position Statement on Teaching Storytelling- full text. (Click link here.)
BRAIN RESEARCH - NEUROLOGICAL IMPACT OF STORIES
“A recent brain-imaging study reported in Psychological Science reveals that the regions of the brain that process sights, sounds, tastes, and movements of real life are activated when we’re engrossed in a compelling narrative. That’s what accounts for the vivid mental images and the visceral reactions we feel when we can’t stop reading, even though it’s past midnight and we have to be up a dawn. When a story enthralls us, we are inside of it, feeling what the protagonist feels, experiencing it as if it were indeed happening to us, and the last thing we’re focusing on is the mechanics of the thing.” Cron, Lisa. Wired for Story: The Writer’s Guide to Using Brain Science to Hook Readers from the Very First Sentence. Berkeley: Ten Speed Press, 2012.
“Many scientists now believe we have neural networks that activate when we perform an action or experience an emotion, and also when we observe someone else performing an action or experiencing an emotion. This might explain why mental states are contagious…..
"Mirror neurons may also be the basis of our ability to run powerful fictional simulations in our heads. A pioneer of mirror neuron research, Marco Iacoboni, writes that movies feel so authentic to us because mirror neurons in our brains re-create for us the distress we see on the screen. We have empathy for the fictional characters—we know how they’re feeling—because we literally experience the same feelings ourselves. And when we watch the movie stars kiss on screen? Some of the cells firing in our brain are the same ones that fire when we kiss our lovers. ‘Vicarious’ is not a strong enough word to describe the effect of these mirror neurons.
"We know from laboratory studies that stories affect us physically, not just mentally." Gottschall, Jonathan. The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human. New York: Mariner Books, 2012. Pg. 60-61
Neurological Impact Affects the Entire Learning Process
“Storytelling is crucial to child development, and helps to strengthen neural pathways that make learning of all kinds possible. Chilton Pearce, in his book Evolution's End, asserts that the repeated exposure to stories and the subsequent triggering of mental images …causes neural pathways to form and strengthen within the brain, and the strengthened connections between the different parts of the brain allow the child to more easily incorporate additional learning.” Fredericks, Linda. Developing Literacy Skills Through Storytelling,”The Resource Connection, Spring, 1997
THE IMPORTANCE OF ORAL LANGUAGE
Oral language is an important tool for the cognitive growth of young children.
Van Groenou, M. “Tell me a story”: Using children’s oral culture in a preschool setting. Montessori LIFE 1995, Summer.
Oral and literate are not opposites; rather, the development of orality is the necessary foundation for the later development of literacy…. Indeed, a sensitive program of instruction will use the child’s oral cultural capacities to make reading and writing engaging and meaningful. Egan, K., Literacy and the oral foundation of education, The NAMTA Journal, 18, 1993, Winter 11-46.
"One area reading researchers agree on is that oral language competencies are essential in literacy development. Storytelling requires listening and visualization - key oral language and comprehension competencies and strategies. It also provides vocabulary development, in context." Gangi, Jane M. Associate Professor, Department of Education, Sacred Heart University, Fairfield, CT. Encountering Children’s Literature: An Arts Approach. Pearson (Allyn and Bacon), 2004.
ORAL SKILLS OF STORYTELLING HELP DEVELOP WRITING SKILLS
“Children at any level of schooling who do not feel as competent as their peers in reading or writing are often masterful at storytelling. The comfort zone of the oral tale can be the path by which they reach the written one. Tellers who become very familiar with even one tale by retelling it often, learn that literature carries new meaning with each new encounter. Students working in pairs or in small storytelling groups learn to negotiate the meaning of a tale.
“Writing theorists value the rehearsal, or prewriting, stage of composing. Sitting in a circle and swapping personal or fictional tales is one of the best ways to help writers rehearse.”Teaching Storytelling: Position Statement from the Committee on Storytelling, National Council of Teachers of English, 1992
Whitman, Nathaniel. " A Study of Storytelling's Effect on Primary (7-9 year old) Writing." M. Ed. Thesis, University of Western Australia, 2006. Hong Kong International School second graders were given writing prompts. The first week they were given a prompt and then began to write immediately. A week later, after a different prompt, they were given a chance to tell their story to a partner before writing. The writing produced after storytelling was used as a pre-writing exercise showed more sophisticated sentence structure, a higher degree of organization, and a stronger word choice in their final, written work. MacDonald, Margaret Read. Teaching with Story: Classroom Connections to Storytelling. Atlanta: August House, 2013.
Gebracht, Gloria Jean. "The Effect of Storytelling on the Narrative Writing of Thrid-grade Students." Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Pennsylvania, 1994. Ninety-four third-grade students inf our classes wee given pre-and post-tests for writing skills. After listening to stories, significant gains were made in story composition and in oral storytelling skills. Greatest effect was had on the below-average readers. Teaching with Story: Classroom Connections to Storytelling. Atlanta: August House, 2013.
MOTIVATING AND HELPING STRUGGLING READERS & LEARNERS/ APPEALING TO MULTIPLE INTELLIGENCES
“Telling young children stories motivates them to read. Elementary school teachers have found that even students with low motivation and weak academic skills are more likely to listen, read, write and work hard in the context of storytelling.” What Works About Teaching and Learning, US Department of Education, 1986
The importance of fostering motivation for reading and learning cannot be underestimated. Skills and worksheet-driven classrooms cannot teach or motivate, as storytelling can, the love of language, stories, characters, and ideas. Nor can they, as storytelling can, foster curiosity. Gangi, Jane M, Associate Professor in the Department of Education at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, CT, author of Encountering Children’s Literature: An Arts Approach. Pearson (Allyn and Bacon). 2004.
"One more voice for the power of storytelling to reach students identified with various learning challenges. Liz and I are back at the pueblo school where we’ve been doing residencies for almost 10 years now. This year the terms of the contract are a little different and we are mainly working with kids with various challenges that cause them to struggle with reading, writing, comprehension, etc. Not surprisingly, because we’ve seen this again and again… most of these kids “take” to stories and often astonish their teachers with their recall, ability to remember, or retell stories… we’ve got students who haven’t heard a story in a year or more… stories we’ve forgotten we even know, that they can tell. It’s probably pretty obvious and we certainly don’t have any research to back it up… but one factor undoubtedly is that hearing and working with stories is inherently fun… whereas “language arts” for those who struggle to read, write etc, is inherently stressful. Imagine that…some kids learn better when they are having fun."
Bob Kanegis, storyteller, United States
“Children at any level of schooling who do not feel as competent as their peers in reading or writing are often masterful at storytelling. The comfort zone of the oral tale can be the path by which they reach the written one. Teaching Storytelling: Position Statement from the Committee on Storytelling, National Council of Teachers of English, 1992
"As a storyteller with dyslexia and dyscalculia, I can assure you that storytelling is key to a positive learning experience. While most of us with these issues seem to be reasonably intelligent, in the past we were often shunted into situations – well-meant, where our needs could not be adequately addressed. Because of this, I applaud the storytelling approach in the classroom as it is inclusive. Oral storytelling releases something essential, allowing us to embrace meaning, color, expression and imagination; it is liberating for those of us marching to a different beat.
"When one is purely wired for learning through story, the classroom with all its confusing stimuli can be an intimidating experience. Storytelling’s one-on-one transmission can be miraculous, calming all the jangled nerves and allowing focus. Something literally settles as the mind automatically links into the information being provided. It is both a physical experience and an emotional one." Saundra Kelley, storyteller and author, United States
Watts, Julia E. "Benefits of Storytelling Methodologies in Fourth- and Fifth-grade Historical Instruction. Thesis. Department of Curriculum and Instruction, East Tennessee State University, 2006. Two hundred twenty-eight fourth- and fifth-grade students in a southern Indiana elementary school participated in the study in which half of the students listened to and participated in oral narratives during their lessons and half were taught with traditional lecture and note-taking instruction. A History Affinity Scale pre- and post-study test showed significant increase in the storytelling group. No changes were shown in the control group.
Myers, Margaret B. "Telling the Stars: A Quantitive Approach to Assessing the Use of Folktales in Science Education." Thesis, Department of Curriculum and Instruction, East Tennessee State University, 2005. Thirty-five hundred students in eight locations in the US were taught scientific concepts about the stars by pairing stories viewed via video of teller Lynn Moroney with science information. A significant increase in positive attitude toward Science was found.
Fuller, Renee. "Story Time: Mind" in OMNI, June, 1980. pp. 22, 119. A psychologist working with severely brain-damaged children with IQ's of 20 and 30 found they were "suddenly able to gain reading comprehension because they were fed stories instead of a disjointed series of facts." She suggests that story comprehension is so basic that it survives severe neurological damage. MacDonald, Margaret Read. Teaching with Story: Classroom Connections to Storytelling. Atlanta: August House, 2013.
GROWING THE IMAGINATION, CREATIVITY & HIGHER ORDER THINKING SKILLS
“When children listen to stories, they respond by creating images of the characters and places described by the words. This process of developing internal images and meaning in response to words is the basis of imagination. Researchers who study brain and behavioral development have identified imagination, not only as the essence of creativity, but as the basis for all higher order thinking. With imagination, with the ability to understand symbols, create solutions, and find meaning in ideas, young people are more capable of mastering language, writing, mathematics, and other learnings that are grounded in the use of symbols.” Fredericks, Linda. “Developing Literacy Skills Through Storytelling.” The Resource Connection, Spring, 1997.
“Intense exposure to stories and storytelling in the classroom stirs and develops the imagination. Storytelling provides imagery-building skills, creates an attentive listener, expands interest into new areas, centers the attention of the class, teaches language, story plots, folkways, ethics, traditions and customs.” What Works About Teaching and Learning, US Department of Education, 1986.
Finnerty, Joyce Carol Powell. "Instruction, imagery, and inference: The effects of three instructional methods on inferential comprehension of elementary children." Ed.D. dissertation, University of Virginia, 1993. During the study 131 second-grade students were given creativity pre- and post-tests. (Thinking creatively in action and movement and early inventory pre-literacy). A storytelling group, a story-reading group, and a control group were used. Both reading-aloud and storytelling groups showed statistically higher creativity scores, but the storytelling group's scores were highest. The increase in creativity scores was especially strong for the lower-socioeconomic students. MacDonald, Margaret Read. Teaching with Story: Classroom Connections to Storytelling. Atlanta: August House, 2013.
"Imagination is a particular kind of flexibility, energy, and vividness that comes from the ability to think of the possible and not just the actual...To be imaginative, then, is not to have a particular function highly developed, but it is to have heightened capacity in all mental functions...It makes mental life more meaningful; it makes life more abundant." Egan, Kieran. Imagination in Teaching and Learning: The Middle School Years. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992.
STORY STRUCTURE & CONTENT ASSIST IN MEMORY
"Information is remembered better and longer, and recalled more readily and accurately when it is remembered within the context of a story.
“Schank (1990)…[said], “The major processes of memory are the creation, indexing, storage, and retrieval of stories.’ He also stated, ‘We have great difficulty remembering abstract concepts and data. However, we can easily remember a good story….Stories provide tools, context, relevance, and elements readers need in order to understand, remember and index beliefs, concepts and information in the story.’” (Haven, Kendall. Story Proof: The Science Behind the Startling Power of Story. Westport: Libraries Unlimited, 2007. Pg. 71) The work he's citing is "Tell Me a Story" by Roger C. Schank
Based on classroom experiences of tens of thousands of teachers, the National Council of Teachers of English Committee on Storytelling concluded in a 1992 report: “Story is the best vehicle for passing on factual information. Historical figures and events linger in children’s minds when communicated by way of a narrative. The ways of other cultures, both ancient and living, acquire honor in story. The facts about now plants and animals develop, how numbers work, or how government policy influences history – any topic for that matter – can be incorporated into story form and made more memorable.” National Council of Teachers of English, 1992 report.
Jensen, Eric. Teaching with the Brain in Mind. 1998. Jensen explains how memories are stored in various locations in the brain. The more locations a memory is stored in, the greater the likelihood the memory will be retained. He says that storytelling is particularly useful because it connects content with emotion.When students learn something in the context of a story that engages them emotionally, they are more likely to be able to access that learning in the future. MacDonald, Margaret Read. Teaching with Story: Classroom Connections to Storytelling. Atlanta: August House, 2013.
"Sharing stories from various cultures makes geographical knowledge more meaningful. Without them, names and lists of countries may be memorized for test-taking purposes, then quickly forgotten. When connected to story, geographical locations and characteristics are more apt to be remembered." Gangi, Jane M, Associate Professor in the Department of Education at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, CT. Encountering Children’s Literature: An Arts Approach. Pearson (Allyn and Bacon). 2004.
Oaks, Tommy Dale. "A study of storytelling teaching method to positively influence student recall of instruction." Ph.D. dissertation, University of Tennessee, 1995.
One hundred fourteen college students in Instructional Media and Technology courses were divided into two groups. One group was taught via storytelling techniques, the other with traditional methods. A pre-study test, a post-study test done immediately after instruction, and a test given three and five weeks following instruction all showed significantly greater gains in recall by the storytelling group over the control group.
STORIES & STORYTELLING INCREASE READING COMPREHENSION
“Without exception, and without equivocation, research studies conducted over the past quarter century quantify and praise the ability of story structure instruction to improve comprehension. Period. Literally hundreds of studies had substantiated that conclusion.
“Information delivered in story structure is easier for readers and listeners to comprehend—especially when the topic of information is unfamiliar to the receiver. This improved comprehension relates to the familiar structure, greater inclusion of sensory details in story formats, and story’s ability to engage banks of prior topical and structural knowledge in the receiver’s mind.
“Stories provide an additional kind of truth besides scientific fact. This is character truth that creates context, relevance, and empathy for both factual information and for struggles of each character.’ Characters represent surrogate models for the reader and allow the reader to interpret and understand text content. The meaning for facts, data, or concepts does not come from those facts alone. Rather it comes through characters and requires story elements (for example, intention, struggle, conflicts, and reaction) in order to be understood by readers.
"This positive effect of instruction on story structure has been well documented for both good and poor readers and for the comprehension of both stories and expository narratives (Spiegel and Fitzgerald 1986; Buss, Ratcliff, and Irions 1985; Bransford and Stein 1993; Liang and Dole 2006;Snow and Burns 1998; and Griffey et al. 1988). Bruan and Gordon (1983) and Morrow (1983) both concluded that knowledge of story structure strongly impacts comprehension.
"Greenwald and Rossing compared comprehension scores for a test group of third graders who followed a standard basal program with an experimental group that surrounded the same basal stories with instruction on story structure and the core structural elements of a story. ‘Their work with each group significantly outperformed the control group on free recall, guided recall, and retelling post tests’ (Greenwalk and Rossing, 1986).
"They concluded, ‘There is ample research evidence to indicate that children’s knowledge of the structure of stories is critical to comprehension by providing an organizational framework within which Incoming information can be integrated and by providing motivation and encouragement to engage this neural mapping process.’ This conclusion was supported by studies by Mandler and Johnson (!977); Rumelhart (1975); Stein and Glenn (1979); Dreher and Singer (1980); and Sebesta, Calder, and Cleland (1978).” Haven, Kendall. Story Proof: The Science Behind the Startling Power of Story. Westport: Libraries Unlimited, 2007.
Smith, Ward William. "The effects of story presentation strategies on story recall and understanding of fourth graders with different information processing styles." Ed.D. dissertation, United States International University, 1991. Two hundred twenty-two fourth graders were tested to determine their learning styles. Students experienced a story either through storytelling, hearing the teacher read aloud or independent reading. They were given a multiple choice test to test short term memory and a story mapping activity to test long term memory. Students, regardless of their learning styles (learning-sequential, integrated processors, or holistic-global) had better comprehension when experiencing the story through storytelling.
STORY-TELLING IS THE MOST IMPACTFUL STORY PRESENTATION FORM
“The Effects of Storytelling versus Story Reading on Comprehension and Vocabulary Knowledge of British Primary School Children”: This article compares effects of storytelling versus story reading on comprehension and vocabulary development of 32 British primary children. States one group listened to stories in storytelling style, the other group listened to stories read by a student teacher. Finds children who witnessed storytelling scored higher on comprehension/vocabulary measures than did children who listened to story reading. Reading Improvement; v35 n3 p127-36 Fall 1998, by Susan Trostle and Sandy Jean Hicks
"A 1999 study showed that 'telling stories to primary-grade students improved their vocabulary faster than did reading to them.' ...Storytelling creates excitement, enthusiasm, and more detailed and expansive images in the mind of the listener than does the same story delivered in other ways.” Haven, Kendall. Story Proof: The Science Behind the Startling Power of Story. Libraries Unlimited, Westport CT, 2007
“Storytelling and Story Reading: A Comparison of Effects on Children’s Memory and Story Comprehension”: A thesis presented to the faculty of the department of Curriculum and Instruction East Tennessee State University by Matthew P. Gallets, May, 2005 (ETSU is the only university in the United States that offers a master’s degree in storytelling.) “The population studied consisted of kindergarten, first, and second grade students. Half the students were read stories aloud, the other half were told the same stories by a storyteller. Students in both the reading and storytelling groups improved on most measures. However, on some measures, notably those regarding recall ability, students in the storytelling group improved more than students in the reading group.”
THE ULTIMATE GAIN: STUDENTS TELLING STORIES
“Second grade students at Lowell School, Waterloo, Iowa, were taught storytelling techniques and given opportunities to practice these techniques for 35-40 minutes per week for six months. This activity, held during lunch, was self-selected and conducted in small groups (8-9 students in each group, with 43 students total). …After six months, these students significantly increased their performance on vocabulary and reading comprehension tests beyond what was expected for that six month period, as measured by pre- and post- Iowa Tests of Basic Skills.” The Effects of Storytelling Experiences on Vocabulary Skills of Second Grade Students: A research paper presented to the faculty of the Library Science Department, University of Northern Iowa, in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts by Gail Froyen 1987. Wright, A. Storytelling with children. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995.
“Children at any level of schooling who do not feel as competent as their peers in reading or writing are often masterful at storytelling. The comfort zone of the oral tale can be the path by which they reach the written one. Tellers who become very familiar with even one tale by retelling it often, learn that literature carries new meaning with each new encounter. Students working in pairs or in small storytelling groups learn to negotiate the meaning of a tale." Teaching Storytelling: Position Statement from the Committee on Storytelling, National Council of Teachers of English, 1992
"The kids stepped inside those stories and walked around in them - which is what you do, of course, when you're in a story and you're telling it - you experience and internalize it. It was better than any lesson I ever did on rising-action and suspense-building, turning point and denouement. They figured out what makes a story work. They got it, because they stood inside a piece of literature and lived it. Gillard, Marni. Storyteller, Storyteacher: Discovering the Power of Storytelling for Teaching and Living. York, ME: Stenhouse, 1996.
"After the show was over one of the mothers stopped to speak with me. Her son was one of my [intermediate school workshop] tellers three years ago. At the time, he struggled with his reading skills and was receiving extra help. He was a bit shy, not very confident, but he took a leap of faith and joined the storytelling club. He wasn’t the most talented teller but what he lacked in raw talent he made up in effort and enthusiasm. At the Storytelling Festival that year his mother came up to me with tears in her eyes, clutching the folktale book with the story he had just shared on stage. She couldn’t believe the transformation in her child, how storytelling had made such a difference in his confidence level and in his life.
Tonight, again with tears in her eyes, she recalled that evening and told me that he is now a straight A student and loves to read. She urged me to never stop what I was doing and said that I had changed his life. Of course I know it wasn’t me, it was the power of story, but it did my heart so much good to hear how well that kind and gentle boy is faring in his new school …
Karen Chace, storyteller from East Freetown, Masschusetts USA, Storytell email list 29/10/05
STORYTELLING HELPS ENGLISH LANGUAGE AND DUAL LANGUAGE LEARNERS
"When children create and tell a story in their own or a second language, the language becomes theirs." Wright, A. Storytelling with children. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995.
“Storytelling offers a wonderful way for students who are new to a language to develop their vocabulary and comprehension. It’s a remarkable tool that helps scaffold language for those students who are leaning English in your classroom… Simple folktales .. help students develop both their receptive and productive language skills. When the tales are told in simple language, students not only listen and comprehend, they also find success joining in during the telling and, eventually, retelling the tales on their own. The refrains embedded in many folktales allow for joyful repetition of key phrases. What a joy to learn a new language!” MacDonald, Margaret Read. Teaching with Story: Classroom Connections to Storytelling. Atlanta, GA: August House, 2013.
“I guess I was thinking storytelling would just have entertainment value, but it is really great for all of my readers that range from first-grade/ELL level readers to fifth-grade readers. It gives them equal standing.” Kelly Kennedy, Grade ¾, Adams Elementary School, Seattle, WA. (from Teaching with Story)
“I was truly amazed at my student responses. My groups include speakers from at least ten different languages and twenty different countries. Every one of my ELL students loved hearing and retelling these stories with me. We enjoyed putting motion to the stories and acting them out. Since many of my students enter the classroom in what we ELL teachers call the ‘silent period of language development,’ this really broke the ice for them. Now even my newest ELL students are more able to speak about events in their lives and write them down.” Susan Ramos, ELL 1-4, Challenger Elementary School, Mukilteo, WA.(from Teaching with Story)
STORY-LISTENING PREPARES PRESCHOOLERS FOR READING
"Storytelling improves listening comprehension, a vital pre-reading skill for children, introduces us to literature we may not be familiar with, whets our appetite for further literary experiences, introduces us to characters with whom we can relate, has been the best tool for passing on the values and morals of families and peoples for centuries, increases our understanding and awareness of our world’s diverse cultures, develops mental imaging ability, another skill necessary for reading comprehension." Susanna Holstein, Librarian and Storyteller, USA
Students aged 11-14 at Hauppauge Middle School (Long Island, New York) write original stories, learn storytelling techniques, and then tell their stories to preschool children. “Findings show that most of the preschool children read more books, select a wide variety of materials, maintain a desire to read, and tell their own stories. The middle school students increase their sensitivity for communicating with a unique audience and they report an improved awareness of children’s ability to use and appreciate language.” Reading, Writing, and Storytelling: A Bridge from the Middle School to the Preschool”, by Joseph Sanacore and Al Alio, 2007 (no publication source given)