Welcome to Jonesborough TN!

Today is the opening of the International Storytelling Festival. I am so lucky to be living in such a wonderful place and enjoying the festival that has been happening for over 25 years.

This is the place where storytelling was “reborn” and the spark that ignited the growing international interest in stories told. Oh, how I wish each of you could be here to see the beautiful small town, hear the diverse tellers, see the colorful tents filled with people, and experience the power of a story told.

Each year it reminds me how important oral language is and how it can positively impact your lives. For three days, we will listen to storytellers from around the world and from rural mountains. They will tell folk tales, personal stories, and describe fascinating characters. Many will have morals and truths to be learned.

Storytelling CircleFor many years, I have being doing research on the development of oral language and the foundation for reading and writing. My dissertation was on “Comparing the Effects of Story Reading and Storytelling on the Oral Language Development of Young Children”. About 5 years ago, I replicated the study with 6-8 year old children. As you know, there is a great deal of research that shows the positive impact reading stories to young children has: expanding their vocabulary, refine their listening skills, and building a love for books. But, my research showed that storytelling had many additional benefits for young children as they visualize the story as it was told.

The children who were in the storytelling group remembered the story better, identified the sequence and characters better, and were more fluent in their retelling of the story. So my conclusion is: both storytelling and story reading are wonderful tools for building language abilities. But, it is essential that storytelling be added to young children’s literacy experiences. This method captures children’s interest, engages them in story, and guides them to becoming tellers of stories too.

Read a story every day to your children but remember to tell them stories too. It provides a powerful and engaging way to draw your children into a shared experience with you!

Watch this weekend for more information on my blog about storytelling and suggestions for you to sharpen your storytelling skills.