Have you ever considered why telling stories is so effective?

Both a communication & a teaching tool, we are telling stories all the time. In their book, Children Tell Stories , authors & storytellers Martha Hamilton & Mitch Weiss offer historical & modern evidence for telling stories as a means to teach all ages. In fact, they claim it is “the oldest form of education.”

P.S. We liked Hamilton & Weiss perspective & how they communicated it so much we quote them in every paragraph of this page! Thank you both for the insight! Here is a link to another book by them with stories for kids to tell.

For really young kids, start with something like this, an audio cd of classics by a different Weiss.

lighted we are all made of stories red neon wall signage inside roomThe Historic Role of Storytelling

Oral traditions have always been part of mankind’s history. Study any age and any culture, and you will find tales that reflect who they are, how they live & what they believe. In Hamilton & Weiss’ words, “narrative is inextricably linked to every aspect of our lives.” In other words, not only do all cultures have stories, but the stories of each culture are connected to & reflected in their daily actions, whether or not they are aware of it.



The Developmental Impact of Storytelling

Cognitive DevelopmentLittle Girl Reading, Garden, Child, Girl

Next, they posit that storytelling is connected to cognitive development, as well as to how we learn. We learn to tell stories in the same way we learn to speak, as an innate process. Hamilton & Weiss explain it this way: “Stories are the way we store information in the brain.” 

Not only is it part of who we are, but talking can help us organize our thoughts, improve recall, & impact language development. The experts continue, “storying, the process of constructing stories in the mind, is one of the most fundamental ways of making meaning and thus pervades all aspects of learning.”

Social-Emotional Development

In Episode 11 of his podcast The Place We Find Ourselves , Counselor Adam Young connects memory to emotions stating that feelings are what helps us to recall events. In this way, storytelling connects to social-emotional development as well. Hamilton & Weiss agree that stories also have a heart element when they quote Irish poet & philosopher James Stephens’: “The head does not hear anything until the heart has listened. The heart knows today what the head will understand tomorrow.” Sharing stories in a group also leads to the development of shared language which can help develop social connections.

Holistic Language Development

The historical & modern evidence that “stories are at the core of all that makes us human” explains the comeback storytelling is making today. While using stories as a teaching tool works across all disciplines, it is specifically connected to teaching language arts. Along with an increased emphasis on story, there is a growing understanding of & appreciation for the connections between the oral, written & visual components of language development. Further, in the words of Hamilton & Weiss there is “a growing recognition among educators… that literacy is more effectively taught when the language arts… are seen as connected & equally important.”