Imaginative Literacy - Storytelling in Storytime

Something has been slowly dawning on me over the past few months (ok, ok, things all dawn slowly anymore). In any case, I have been reading and following the discussions of storytime from bloggers, folks on Twitter and Facebook groups and youth librarians in chats in hallways at conferences. And a thing has got me wondering.

It seems like we are using far less oral storytelling in storytimes than we once did.  Mel's recent post at Mel's Desk details her solution to her recurring nightmare of needing a storytime in 3 minutes. She would tell many stories along with fingerplays and songs (all, I might say, brilliantly woven together as only Mel can do).

My reading eyes popped when I read her solution - it was ripe with oral storytelling, something I rarely see in storytime plans. Are we still using storytelling in storytimes with preschoolers?

I wonder because, as a long-time storyteller, I have watched how preschoolers discover the wonder of a story when their own imaginations provide the picture and context for the words being shared by the storyteller. Stories are powerful tools to spark the imagination of the listener.

I have long been troubled that kids get very little time to encourage their imagination in a world of provided images and experiences.  I don't dispute the wonder of books, media, digital images, art and other images that kids are exposed to. But I am wondering about whether we might want to take a step up and beyond these types of literacy sharing to delve into using the art of storytelling to spark and support imaginative literacy in our storytimes.

Just askin'. Just sayin'.


  1. I don't know what if I use it a LOT, but I do act out stories with kids quite frequently. Gingerbread Boy (or the pancake version), Three Billy Goats Gruff, Three Bears, Three Little Pigs and Margaret Read McDonald's Squeaky Door. This isn't a huge repertoire! but it's basically the ones I know well and that are appropriate for kids (heh heh). I feel like I don't have time to memorize and practice new stories, although I do try out new ones occasionally, which is why I generally end up using this same group over and over. On the other hand, I no longer hire storytellers as performers. People just aren't interested in coming, plus for me there's a "why am I paying someone to do something I can do myself" aspect to it (not that I'm the world's greatest storyteller or anything, but the kids don't care)
    I...have no idea what this proves. Some people are still telling stories? I do have a tub of flannel pieces for classic fairy tales - Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, etc. and I'm planning to put a flannelboard up in the children's area and let kids use the flannel pieces. I don't like them for storytime, since they're heavily pre-printed and almost all princess stories that I wouldn't tell in a preschool storytime.

  2. I'm new in this profession and find the idea of storytelling a little bit daunting. I do love to use flannelboards to tell my stories because I have props to lean on. I'm also learning from Steven at Beyond the Books Storytimes that I can use the puppets and stuffed animals that we have to improvise on the concept of books like Brown Bear, Bear, What Do You See? I'm currently testing out this idea in my storytimes for four and five year-olds.

    I definitely hear what you're saying about encouraging children's imaginations, though. I love the idea of storytelling but I feel it's something I will test in a few months when I'm more comfortable with a variety of storytime options. My biggest fear would be that the kids wouldn't be engaged by it. I have a rowdy bunch (because my storytimes are caretaker-optional) so I think I would have to find a way to make it seem special. Maybe whip out a faux-campfire and make a circle around it?

    1. Yes, give it time. I started out with props and fallels and began to add more pure storytelling and it is amazing to see how they will sit. Think of traditional short tales (Goldilocks/Three Kittens/Three Bill Goats Gruff/Caps for Sale) to start out with.