The Benefits of Storytelling 

By: Kusum K. Bhatia,
Information Services Librarian - Children
parents reading to their child


“Storytelling is among the oldest forms of communication. Storytelling is the commonality of all human beings, in all places, in all times.” ― Rives Collins, the Author of The Power of Story: Teaching Through Storytelling 

Stories bind us together. In the example of different listeners listening to the same story, they begin to come together through a common experience. 

We construct internal narratives to help us make sense of the world. Storytelling is a fundamental part of being human. Stories allow us to share information in a way that creates an emotional connection. They help us to understand information and each other, and it makes the information memorable. A common experience promotes empathy and provides a means of making sense of the world.

Storytelling originated with visual stories, such as cave drawings, and then shifted to oral traditions, in which stories were passed down from generation to generation by word of mouth. There was then a shift to words formed into narratives, including written, printed, and typed stories.

Research conducted on the effects of storytelling indicate its positive effects. A growing body of scientific literature shows that reading is basically an empathy workout. By nudging us to take the perspective of characters very different from ourselves, it boosts our emotional quotient (EQ). This effect can literally be seen in your brainwaves when you read. Another line of research shows that deep reading, the kind that happens when you curl up with a great book for an extended period, helps in building our ability to focus and grasp complex ideas.

A major new study led by the University of Malaga and University College London was recently conducted and published in the peer-reviewed journal, the Oxford Review of Education. Longitudinal census data was used to look at more than 43,000 students, aged 10 to 11 and then again when they were 13 to 14, the research provides substantial evidence that pupils who enjoy reading high-quality books daily score higher in tests. The average marks of pupils who read books rose by 0.22 points overall, which is the equivalent of three months' worth of additional secondary school academic growth.

Storytelling, a traditional method of early childhood learning, is the simplest as well as the most engaging activity to help nurture your child’s personality. You can read a story from a book, frame a new story, or simply talk about your own real-life experiences. Storytelling has a plethora of benefits such as enhancing listening, thinking, communication and confidence skills, kindling imagination and creativity and sharpening memory and concentration. It heightens curiosity and encourages active participation in challenging situations. Development of emotional quotient and empathy, as well as an understanding of origins and culture, is an added benefit. Improvement of verbal proficiency is, of course, the most evident benefit. These and more positives will come to the shore if an age-appropriate story is narrated. One that is long enough to evoke and maintain interest but short enough to not bore the listeners. Voice modulations, facial expressions and a sing-song manner heighten the involvement and eagerness and hence add to the benefits reaped. With so many positives the obvious question that arises then is what is the right age to start reading to children? The answer, as early as possible. 


Several research studies show that reading stories to the child when still in the womb improves the development of their speaking skills and they learn to respond faster.

“Reading to an unborn baby provides an additional form of language stimulation that is more structured,” says Fadiyla Dopwell, MD, a developmental-behavioral pediatrician. It’s a fact that while in utero your baby can hear your voice and heartbeat. Their language skills are already developing, including their familiarity with vowel sounds. Reading to them not only reinforces their language in a structured way, but it also deepens your connection.” 

Dopwell adds: “Daily reading with an unborn baby will also help in further developing a secure parent-child attachment. It provides a tranquil opportunity for baby and mother to bond with one another.”

Infants (0–1-year-olds) 

When read to, infants show surprisingly apt responses. The story and the tone have the power to quieten a crying baby, put him/her to sleep as well as bring out giggles, smiles, and gurgles.

Toddlers (1–5-year-olds)

Toddlers respond best to stories. At this age, storytelling can be used as a tool to teach basic concepts. Toddlers who have been exposed to storytelling have been found to be more expressive, social and have a higher IQ.

Grade-schoolers (above 5 years of age)

Children in this age group normally develop their own reading habits. While you may not be able to sit them down to tell them a story, they should be encouraged to engage in storytelling activities. Help them enact stories with their friends, perform small skits and plays attended by adults, encourage them to build upon stories they have read, and enact the stories with them. 

Reading for pleasure as a child has been powerfully linked in research to the development of vocabulary and math skills up to the age of 16. But does reading still have a part to play in the breadth of our adult vocabulary?

The good news is that benefits don’t stop at the end of the school years – whether we read regularly or not. In fact, large gains are observed in vocabulary between the ages of 16 and 42. The benefits of reading do not stop in childhood, but a love of reading gained in childhood can yield lifelong rewards.

To reap a higher degree of the above-mentioned positives, it’s important to not end the opportunity to learn with just the act of storytelling, but to follow it up immediately with age-appropriate tasks related to the story. Simple activities such as retelling the story, sequencing of events in the story, to more complex ones such as thinking about an alternate end or beginning, writing a part or whole of the story in your own words, creating images to the story out of your imagination, or even learning the meaning of new words heard during the story and using it in a sentence of your own. 

In conclusion, stories are all around us, waiting to be told, retold, narrated and/or experienced. At Qatar National Library, we house a plethora of story books, both physical as well as electronic, for all ages.  

Follow this link for a wide range of electronic resources and enjoy reading from home. We hope you embark on or continue this journey of stories with your child or students.
Happy reading.




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