Books & Storytelling: A Rich Learning Ground

"Whether it's a classic fairy tale, like Three Billy Goats Gruff , or a more recent favourite, like Hairy Maclary from Donaldson's Dairy, children love stories."

They love hearing them, telling them and sharing the experience of them with others.

The also engage deeply with books that have beautiful, age-appropriate illustrations.

Benefits Of Books & Storytelling

Reading books and telling stories is an excellent way to:

  • strengthen the bond between adults and children
  • develop listening and language skills
  • create life-long lovers of books and reading
  • teach life lessons
  • increase a child's potential for academic success.

As you read to children, they will learn the basics of how to read a book too: left to right, top to bottom, front to back, turning pages etc.

Dramatic Play & Storytelling

Storytelling is at the heart of dramatic play.

Books can provide ideas for dramatic play, or children – as they often do – can create their own stories and enact them.

Dramatic play is important because it helps develop social and language skills; allows the expression of positive and negative feelings; teaches children to negotiate, take turns and resolve conflict; and helps children make sense of the world.

Language Development

Reading and storytelling play a vital role in language development.

Not only do they introduce children to the sounds, meaning and usage of words, but they also stimulate conversation. And conversation is the most effective catalyst for language development.

As you are reading, discuss the story with your child. Ask them about the pictures, the characters and what they think will happen next.

Even if they are very young, talk to them as if you are having a conversation, and encourage every effort they make to communicate.

You will be helping them greatly in their language development.

Ideas For Reading & Storytelling

Making up a story using a real experience or place, or a relevant theme
Using puppets to tell a story
Dressing up and enacting a story
Listening to a story tape
Telling stories (e.g. Three Little Pigs) using a magnetic storyboard
Reading pop-up or feely books
Reading a book – maybe one about nature – outside
Reciting or making up rhymes
Telling stories from other cultures
Creating a simple book using a child's story and drawings
Talking about the illustrations in a book
Reading a book to get ideas for play (e.g. Fun With Flax, by Mick Pendergrast)
Reading a language poster (e.g. the Tongan names for animals)

Essential Equipment

Playcentre recommends the following as a minimum for early learning centres:

Low shelving
Story and reference books (a wide variety, including books that reflect different cultures and languages)
Hand puppets
Magnetic or flannel graph storyboard with a selection of pieces for stories
Māori language poster/chart

See the Playcentre basic equipment list for more details.


  • Cover a wide range of real experiences as well as symbolic ones.
  • Books/stories have a profound impact on children – choose them with care.
  • Don't leave out the hard stuff. Children know there are difficult things to deal with in life, and they want to know how.
  • Encourage children to express their feelings in stories.
  • Look for "teachable moments" while reading.

Te Whāriki & Books & Storytelling

Books and storytelling relate particularly to Strands 1, 2 and 4 of Te Whāriki, which are Wellbeing/Mana Atua, Belonging/Mana Whenua and Communication/Mana Reo.

To learn more about Te Whāriki, visit the website.

Our thanks to the Auckland Playcentre Shop for permission to use this article. Great play starts here.