“Once upon a Time,” Ensign, June 1997, 71
Telling stories to children can become a time of special sharing with them. The following questions and answers may help parents as they seek ways to make storytelling meaningful in their homes.
When should I begin telling stories to children? By age two, children enjoy simple storybooks with large pictures, and they will begin to look forward to spending enjoyable minutes with Mom or Dad.
How long should the story be? For children three and under, picture books with a few words on each page are sufficient. From age five and up, stories can take from 1 to 15 minutes to read.
How does storytelling promote closeness? By reading together, both parent and child experience the events of a story simultaneously. As they do this, they focus on each other and share their feelings together, unlike watching television or going to the park, where the focus usually moves outside the two of them.
Can storytelling help children learn to read? Children almost always want to read those stories they’ve heard over and over and come to love. As they begin to learn to read, a familiar story seems easier and more fun to read, and children are more familiar with the words.
Can storytelling be used as a teaching tool? The earliest years of reading can focus on scripture readers and on books that help children distinguish between different animals, learn numbers and letters, become familiar with the seasons, and so on. Everything about the world and how it works is interesting to young children. As children get older, parents can choose stories that teach more difficult concepts. Asking questions about what is happening can help the child evaluate the appropriateness of a character’s choices. Stories can also teach children about other countries or cultures or history.
How can story time be made more fun? One way to make an old story seem new is to draw it out on large sheets of paper as you tell it. Another way to have fun is to let the child tell the story to you.—Carolyn Campbell, Salt Lake City, Utah