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Using Storytelling to Improve Literacy

Beyond reading and writing, literacy skills include listening, speaking, and communicating. There are many activities that can help literacy development, but storytelling is one of the most complete strategies available for teaching literacy learning. Storytelling is, possibly, the oldest precursor to literacy, and every culture has used it to explore identity.  Teachers enrolled in a literacy studies graduate program can learn how and why to incorporate storytelling into their classroom community to help develop student literacy in more personal and engaging ways.

Storytelling improves cultural connection

Storytelling helps children learn to understand each other's differences. Children can listen to stories about other people and learn to empathize with those who live in different environments. Children can connect their own experiences to the ones they are learning about and then move on to create their own stories. Storytelling encourages children to tell their own stories orally, in writing, and in pictures. Literacy learning, which includes these three media, can be more engaging for students who have struggled to understand how words relate to their lives.

Storytelling strengthens literacy development

Storytelling improves the abilities to summarize and deconstruct stories

One of the most tested literacy learning strategies is summarizing plot, setting and characterization. The more stories children hear, the more they are likely to notice and remember details in stories. Storytelling improves both memory and the ability to use narrative language, which is necessary for developing literacy. Studying storytelling in a literacy studies graduate program may help teachers improve classroom literacy scores as they implement these strategies into their classrooms.

Storytelling improves all areas of literacy learning

  • Helps children learn about others
  • Promotes happy feelings about reading
  • Improves listening skills
  • Encourages imagination and creativity
  • Increases active participation
  • Teaches language use and story structure

One effective way to start incorporating storytelling into the classroom is through wordless picture books. These beautifully illustrated books will guide kids visually through a story, increasing their understanding of beginning, middle and end. When children learn to “tell” the story as they see it and teachers transcribe what the students say, children see how storytelling connects to writing stories. This is literacy learning at its most authentic. Teachers enrolled in a literacy studies graduate program can find themselves immersed in strategies like storytelling, which they can use in the classroom to improve literacy and build a literacy community.

Learn more about the UT Arlington online M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction with an Emphasis in Literacy Studies program.


Miller, S. and Lisa Pennycuff Journal of Cross-Disciplinary Perspectives in Education Vol. 1, No. 1 (May 2008) 36 – 43, from

Piri, S. (2015, September 14). Storytelling helps improve children’s literacy. Retrieved October 17, 2015, from

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