Become a Story Re-Teller! What the latest research tells us to do during storytime


Here’s a practical idea that will engage your child. We believe that time spent reading to your child also benefits language development and future literacy. It’s kind of fun, too. But time for fun might be limited in your daily life. That’s why we love this latest report on literacy that tells us how to make the most of our time spent reading with young children. Because our main goal, as parents, is to inspire life-long learning.

The report, a CELLreview by the Center for Early Literacy, was on Story Retelling as a Literacy and Language Enhancement Strategy by Dunst, Simkus, and Hamby. The authors looked at the effects of story retelling in a meta-analysis of 11 studies involving 678 toddlers and preschoolers to see if story retelling really improved comprehension and expressive vocabulary. It also identified the characteristics of and conditions under which children’s story retelling was effective.

One of the best parts of this report gives detailed descriptions of story retelling practices, so easy that parents can seamlessly add them into their story times. We’ve included them below.

When the Adult Reads

  • Story Introduction:  Reader introduces the story by showing the cover of the book and prompts child to predict what the story may be about before beginning to read it.
  • Repeated Readings:  The oral reading of the same book multiple times.
  • Story Review:  Reader presents an oral review of the characters and events in the story.
  • Relatedness:  Reader relates a picture or event in story to child’s personal experience.
  • Prompted Child Responses:  Reader asks child to make comments and ask questions during the reading or reader pauses during reading episode in order to prompt the child to fill in the missing information.
  • Open-Ended Questions:  Reader asks the child open-ended questions about the book during the reading episode or the reader asks questions that the child already knows answers to in order to get the child to respond.
  • Ask for Predictions  Before reading the story, the reader asks child to make a prediction of what the story is about based upon what the child sees on the cover of the book.
  • Props:  Reader uses props or toys relevant to the book that help engage the child in the reading episode.
  • Visual Aid(s):  Reader tells story utilizing a visual aid such as the book illustrations or separate picture sequencing cards.

When the Child Reads

  • Adult Prompting:  Reader encourages child to go further with their retelling using phrases such as “What happened next?” or “And then what?”
  • Elaborations:  Reader uses a conversational approach to help the child reconstruct the story and relate parts of the story to the child’s own experiences.
  • Book Access:  Child is allowed to hold and use the book for cues during the retelling.
  • Dramatization:  Child is asked to role-play or act out parts of the story while the story is being read.
  • Visual Aid:  Reader provides child with picture sequencing cards or pictures in the book that illustrate the events in the story to assist in child’s retelling.
  • Props:  Child is given props or toys relevant to the book that can be used by the child to help retell the story.

So which practices were the most effective? The report determined that doing just one of these practice was not very effective. Story retelling was most effective using five or six practices at a time. More than that and kids start to check out. The most effective combination included relating the story to a child’s interests or experiences, taking the time to introduce/explain the story, asking a child either open-ended questions or to make predictions following story introductions, prompting the child to retell the story or verbal elaborations, and using visual aids or props. We have highlighted these practices in yellow on the list. Using these simple practices can help you to make story time fun and effective by increasing comprehension and expressive vocabulary. And what better way to fully engage your child in literacy!

Author: Editorial Team

A select group of our board members who have something to say, but want to say it together. We also use this byline for those who wish to write anonymously.

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