Works Cited

Allen, J., Allen, S., Latrobe, K., Brand, M., Pfefferbaum, B., Elledge, B., Burton, T., & Guffey, M. (2012). The Power of Story. Children & Libraries: The Journal Of The Association For Library Service To Children, 10(1), 44-49.

Bodart, J.R. (2006). Books that help, books that heal: Dealing with controversy in YA literature. Young Adult Library Services 5(1), 31-34.

Burner, J. (2007). Bring It On Home. School Library Journal, 4(1), 22-25.

Cooper, J. (1997). Literacy: Helping children construct meaning. Boston, MA: Houghton-Mifflin

Du Toit, C. (2010). Raising Resilience by Tackling Texts. Mousaion, 28, 101-116.

Fisher, W. (1987). Human communication as narration: Towards a philosophy of reason, value, and action. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press.

Greene, E. & Del Negro, J.M. (2010). Storytelling: Art and Technique. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited Press.

Haven, K. & Ducey, M. (2007). A Crash Course in Storytelling. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited.

Hughes-Hassell, S. & Cox, E.J. (July 2010). Inside Board Books: Representations of People of Color. The Library Quarterly, 80(3) 211-230.

Kurz, R. (2012). Missing Faces, Beautiful Places: The Lack of Diversity in South Carolina Picture Book Award Nominees. New Review Of Children’s Literature & Librarianship, 18(2), 128-145.

O’Neill, D. K., Pearce, M. J., & Pick, J. L. (2004) Predictive relations between aspects of preschool children’s narratives and performance on the Peabody Individualized Achievement Test – Revised: Evidence of a relation between early narrative and later mathematical ability. First Language, 24, 149-183.

van Vliet, H., & Hekman, E. (2012). Enhancing user involvement with digital cultural heritage: The usage of social tagging and storytelling. First Monday, 17(5), 3. Retrieved from

Wiggins, G., & McTigue, J. (2005). Understanding by Design (Expanded 2nd Edition). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Worth, S. E. (2008). Storytelling and narrative knowing: An examination of the epistemic benefits of well-told stories. The Journal of Aesthetic Education, 42(3), 42-56.



One of the main benefits of telling stories from young people’s perspectives is that young people are excellent at creatively imagining new possibilities. By encouraging them through reimagining classic tales (such as Sakill’s Goldilocks and Boyer’s Jaclyn and the Beanstalk), telling historic tales through young people’s perspectives (such as Letters from Mississippi or Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt), and telling stories where young people have agency and resiliency (such as Amazing Grace or One My Darling Come to Mama), we can build up a holistic developmental storytelling curricula that connects with young people and helps them develop the skills they need as they grow older.

I am going to end with two fun stories. One is a wonderful story about making changes to what you think is possible, told by Robin Moore, called The Silver Trout. Watch his wonderful telling here: It truly imagines new possibilities! See the screenshot below, which demonstrates Robin’s wonderful facial expressions.
One shows a young person following their passion and rewriting their future. The Boy Who Drew Cats (Shep, 1997) is a wonderful Japanese tale about a person following their passion in spite of criticism that his love of drawing cats was useless. Some magic transpires, and he becomes a hero! Read a transcript here:

Because storytelling connects listeners to you

Research show that while listening to oral storytelling, physiological changes occur: “…blood pressure and body temperature lowers, breathing slows, and the brain becomes more active in certain areas during this altered state of mind” (Greene & Del Negro, p. 49). This physiological state, as well as the appearance of a trusted adult telling stories that teach, entertain, and engage, help young people connect to the story and to the teller. “Storytelling…forges an intimate relationship between teller and listener that continues far beyond the actual telling of a tale” (Haven & Ducey, 2007, p. 14). This relationship can be very important in young people’s lives. Telling a story from their perspective is another way to build that connection, by demonstrating that you care about their lives and issues.

A study done on storytelling in museums showed that it shifted the patron’s perspectives of the museum from place of work or study to a place of leisure (van Vliet & Hekman, 2012, p. 3). This could work in libraries as well.

Telling personal stories is a great way to connect with listeners. One that I loved was Kevin Kling’s story of how he was struck by lightning as a young person, and how all the men in his family had also been struck. This story of him as a young person can help little ones who can’t imagine that an adult was every a child connect their experiences with their families to the storyteller. Watch it here:

Another sweet and personal tale is this story by Elisha Minter about her grandmother’s biscuits. It is important because it shows the fallibility of adults we respect, and how our perspectives change with new knowledge. Watch it here:

A fun way to connect with listeners is to use participation. This story, of Goldilocks and the Three Bears Reimagined is full of physical movement and a rewriting of the tale. Sadari Saskill recorded this with the intention of involving young people who may struggle with language or who learn in multiple ways. Saskill does a wonderful job introducing the story and explaining what she is going to do before she does it, which is an important pedagogical tool, especially when working with students who struggle with language. Watch it here:

Because storytelling helps those who struggle with language to understand and interpret the story

“Students’ ability to interact with the teller and to have the teller adjust the story and the telling to account for those responses significantly improved students ability to understand stories and to create meaning from stories” (Haven & Ducey, 2007, p. 14).  This is one of the important benefits of live and oral storytelling, where the storyteller can be pedagogically involved in creating understanding in their listener.

Another way to help those with language issues is to include a physical dimension in stories. I really enjoyed hearing the story of the Big Green Spider, told by 8-year-old Imani Adrea.  She incorporated a lot of movement, which can be an important way that students can connect with the story and build context around words or concepts that may otherwise be difficult to understand.

Another wonderfully animated storytelling is by Donna Washington, who wonderfully tells the story of the Red Red Lips.  This story uses repetition, physical movements, and facial expressions to tell the story beyond the words.  It also deals with some of the issues that children face when dealing with fear of the dark, and creating safety and resilience.  Watch it here:

Because storytelling generates vivid and details images in a listener’s mind

Some of the best stories have really great details that build a picture in your mind.  “Listening to stories creates vivid, multisensory details.  Details create memory” (Haven & Ducey, 2007, p. 13).  Memory is an important skill for young people to learn, as is listening.  “Storytelling encourages the art of listening.  Children experience the whole of a piece of literature, uninterrupted by questions or discussion” (Greene & Del Negro, 2010, p. 45).  Learning to listen can be important for academic development, as well as social development.

A wonderful story about listening is A Saam’s Tale, a transcript of which is included here: It comes from Finland, and tells the story of a young boy who wanders into the woods, meets a woman who could have been his grandmother, and learns about the importance of listening.  This story also has some nice vivid details about the forest and environment.

Diane Wolksten performed “Elsie Piddock Skips in Her Sleep” from Eleanor Farjeon’s Martin Pippin in the Daisy Field, which includes some great details and rhymes to help generate pictures and memory.  I love how the story moves between realities that are known (skipping, the word on the street), and magic.  This is one of those stories that helps re-imagine possibilities!  Watch her performance here:

Because storytelling makes nonfiction events and topics come alive

Haven and Ducey, using examples from educators, show that “Any topic can be introduced to listeners through a tale” (Haven & Ducey, 2007, p. 12).  This can be especially important for teens, who are learning about the complexities of the world and global conflicts.  “The world can seem incomprehensibly enormous and threatening, especially to the awakening teenage mind.  But by using stories, we can help teens grasp the hard realities of their world. Through the skillful use of narrative, an international crisis can be transformed into a local, even intimate, plight and personal turning point, and enhance student awareness and understanding” (Burner, 2007, p. 22).  Therefore, using stories that introduce global issues through the story of a young person can help teens connect their own lives to those presented in the story, and get a better grasp on complex situations. It can also create understanding, which, as Wiggins and McTigue (2004) outline, is different from other types of learning: “To understand is to make connections and bind together our knowledge into something that makes sense of things (whereas without understanding we might only see unclear, isolated, or unhelpful facts)” (p. 7).

There are a few wonderful stories that introduce young people to the concept of slavery.  One that I found that I wanted to include, despite it not having young protagonists, is this telling of Hambone by Diane Ferlatte, which can be watched here:

And another wonderful song is Follow the Drinking Gourd, which can be watched here:

There are wonderful stories about young people that experienced slavery as well.  One is Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt, by Deborah Hopkinson (1995). The story describes a young slave girl’s escape from slavery on the Underground Railroad, and does a wonderful job making access points for young people.  Themes of missing her mother, making crafts, being alone, and growing up are all present.   The story is read here by Nikeya Clayton:

There are some wonderful stories from real life that can also be wonderful performances.  An example is these survivor tales from teen survivors of Hurricane Katrina.  These teen perspectives can be an important context builder for other young people.

One last example comes from Letters from Mississippi: Reports from Civil Rights Volunteers and Freedom School Poetry of the 1964 Freedom Summer by Elizabeth Martinez (2002).  These are real letters, written by young volunteers who traveled to Mississippi in the summer of 1964 with the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee to help the organization build schools, register voters, and participate in the creation of a new political party.  Watch a performance of three of these letters here:

Stories can also help reinforce important safety lessons, morality, and manners, as demonstrated in Aesop’s fables.  “Literature gives insight into the motives and patterns of human behavior” (Greene & Del Negro, 2010, p. 46).  It was used to demonstrate the dangers of the forest in Europe through Little Red Riding Hood, the classic folktale.  For more information, I recommend the Wikipedia page on the story: