Storytime is a common practice in many libraries. A lot of us fondly recall librarians, teachers, and parents captivating us by reading from our favorite books. But what is it about storytelling that makes it so powerful? Why does listening to an adult share a story enthrall so many students, and how exactly does it benefit them?
One of the reasons stories connect with both adults and children in such a fundamental way is that we’re hardwired to process information in the form of a story. Our brains look for patterns and connections. And we associate that information with people, places, and emotions we’re familiar with. Put simply, we’re programmed to like stories, and to see ourselves in them.
Love of reading
There are, of course, quite a few benefits that students gain from storytime. One of them, for many children, is a love of reading. Often, a child’s first encounter with a book is having it read to them by a parent. They’re engaging with books even before they learn to read. And when an adult uses an engaging tone of voice and has an exciting storytelling style, they can encourage the children listening to develop an interest in books even at a young age. A child who’s thoroughly drawn into a story is probably more likely to seek out similar stories and books on their own.
There’s nothing wrong with a great TV show or movie. But books are special because they demand more engagement from the audience. Readers -- or listeners in the case of storytime -- have to picture the characters, settings, and events in their own minds. This helps them to exercise their creativity and imagination in a unique way.
Similarly, asking students to sit and focus on a story for the duration of storytime -- without being distracted by devices -- will likely help them to develop longer attention spans. With the omnipresence of phones and tablets, and the constant onslaught of information even kids are experiencing these days, anything that encourages focus is a good thing!
The right kind of story truly can encourage its audience to become more empathetic and open-minded. A 2014 study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology found that children who read the Harry Potter books demonstrated less prejudice against people seen as different from themselves. This may be related to the content of the books, which promotes equality and denounces discrimination. Similarly, research conducted by Dr. Paul Zak demonstrated that listening to a story produces Oxytocin in the brain, a neurochemical produced when we feel trust or when we’re shown kindness. In turn, this increases our ability to experience empathy.
Clearly, storytelling can have a powerful impact on young students. It keeps them entertained and informed, and can even help them grow personally and emotionally. And when adults make storytime engaging, it can help to foster a lifelong love of books.
To celebrate the importance of storytelling, we put together this special collection of titles that put the focus on books, reading, and stories!