Using Storytelling To Develop Language Skills In Preschoolers

‘The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go.’  Dr Seuss

Reading to babies and young children and telling stories isn’t just about bonding and enjoying special time together (although those are valuable outcomes too), it’s actually one of the most important things that parents and caregivers can do to give their little ones a healthy start to life - and for life.

A research project by Duke University scientists revealed compelling evidence of the long-term benefits of language input and storytelling for children’s language and literacy development - and the results left little doubt that parents, caregivers and early educators play a huge role in giving children a strong foundation in acquiring these early skills.

What are the benefits of reading and storytelling?

The importance of reading and telling stories to your child cannot be over stated. 

Even the seemingly simple aspects of reading such as your child observing you holding a book the right way up, turning the pages gently, hearing repetitive sounds and rhymes, seeing different images and listening to different vocal tones have valuable long-term benefits in terms of their linguistic development.

The benefits to reading and storytelling include:

  • Promotes the development of their brains
  • Introduces them to the shapes of letters, sounds and words which is the basis for early language, literacy and communication skills
  • Expands their vocabulary
  • Helps develop their concentration and listening skills
  • Sparks their imaginations
  • Builds memory skills
  • Reading is the route to a lifelong love of learning
  • Introduces them to a wide variety of topics which helps them discover their own interests and learn about the world
  • Can be a pathway to introducing concepts like empathy, respect, diversity, tolerance, kindness which are helpful for a child’s social and emotional development
  • Storytelling can also help children with self-esteem as they identify with characters in a book and have their feelings acknowledged and validated

How you can use storytelling to develop language skills in young children

Let’s focus on the power of storytelling with regards to a preschooler’s language and early literacy development. 

You don’t need to wait until your little one starts engaging with the world before you introduce books to them.  Even very young babies benefit from storytelling.

Remember, storytelling isn’t only about books and reading.  Singing, saying rhymes and repeating phrases are all really important for helping your little one start to understand the connections between sounds, letters, syllables and words.  In fact, repetition and rhyme are among the most important ways that children learn the fundamentals of language. 

Some key points about books and young children include:

  • Choose books about things that the child can relate to
  • It doesn’t matter if you don’t finish the story
  • Be prepared to read the same story time and time again!
  • Make reading a daily habit
  • Children learn through active participation

An important thing to remember is that there’s so much more to reading than what’s featured on the pages. 

A book can spark a story of your family’s history and culture (young children love listening to stories which involve them!).  You can embellish a story with movement, actions, funny sounds and facial expressions.  You can tell stories of overcoming challenges, perseverance, resilience and love.  You can make connections between what’s in the book and your child’s own experiences (‘remember when you saw an elephant at the zoo’) and you can encourage your child to talk about the story too.

Anyone can tell a story and it can be anywhere and at any time.  And if you don’t have a book on hand, there are plenty of other opportunities for storytelling such as food packaging, shop windows, letters and pamphlets in the post, newspapers and menus.

By using hand gestures, different vocal intonations and facial expressions for added emphasis, you’ll keep your child focused which is a key skill for learning.  Movement and sound will bring the story to life and keep your child engaged as well as help them understand and contextualise new words and phrases. 

And young children should be encouraged to tell you stories too.  Through storytelling, they’ll get to practise important language skills and will build up confidence in their verbal communication abilities. 

A last word on the importance of storytelling

In the words of one of the research scientists involved in the Duke University study said: ‘Storytelling is a medium in which families with all types of resources and assets can thrive.’

Here at Evoke Early Learning, our intention is to encourage a lifelong love of learning in our children and to equip them with the knowledge, skills, dispositions, attitudes, languages and self-agency for active participation in all areas of life.  Reading and storytelling are vital components of our daily curriculum in pursuit of these intentions and you’ll find that our educators love books just as much as the children do!

If you’re looking at childcare and early education options in Melbourne, we’d love to show you around our centres at Albert Park or Clayton.  You’re welcome to book a tour online or contact our friendly team on 08 1234 5678 or email

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