Building a Love of Reading through Storytelling

Thursday, May 14, 2015
I dedicate this post to my father who was the best storyteller I know. It was his stories that became the building blocks for a lifetime of reading and writing.

A friend recently asked “what’s the key to making your children love books so much?” I suppose until that moment I hadn’t given it much thought. I love books, our children love books. I thought that was the simple correlation. I love seeing things through the eyes of a child and our older children were able to tell me a little bit about their love of reading. After a few conversations with them, I realized the answer was a little more in-depth than I had originally imagined. The first stories our children fall in love with are stories we tell with our own voices and their first works are found scribbled on pieces of scrap paper and may not contain a single recognizable letter. I now firmly believe it is the art of oral storytelling that helps build a love a reading and ultimately a love of writing because children want to share their own story.
My youngest daughter loves to hear my voice. I began talking to her while I was pregnant and she hasn’t tired of the sing songy way I tell her about my day. I may be singing the recipe for banana bread, making up a song about her beautiful blue eyes, or belting out the latest Taylor Swift song. My daughter doesn’t care what it is; as long as it’s my voice she is soothed, pleased, and entertained. Similarly, my youngest son who is nearing two really enjoys learning through song. He is beginning to recognize the rhythm of the ABC song, Twinkle Twinkle, and other standard children’s tunes. He also can say simple words like “book” and his favorites are by Dr. Seuss. He enjoys the rhythm and rhyme whether it’s being sung or read and his love for physical books is already apparent.

The older children who are 7 and 8 were the ones who really brought me to my theory about storytelling and a love of reading. They love making up their own stories; give them an object they’ve never seen before and they’ll give a lengthy explanation about what it is and where it came from. The story will change if they play long enough and one minute the long stick will be a telescope on a pirate ship and the next it is a walking stick for an elderly woman on her way to catch a train. They love telling stories as much as they love having them read to them. Now they are reading as part of their school work and they are flying through the reading levels because they can’t wait to hear the next story or find out exactly why a deer’s eyes make a reflection when the headlights hit them.

My theory is this: A child’s curiosity leads them to love a good story and a good story encourages the love of reading and a good storyteller encourages a love of writing. My father traveled as a young man. He worked for the Manitowoc Company (a local company building large cranes) and his position was to travel to customer sites and help oversee the building/re-building of the crane after it arrived. The crane had been put together at the manufacturing plant but was disassembled for transport to the customer. My father would help the customer’s workers to put all the pieces back together again. Sometimes this took several weeks. He had quite this job by the time I was born, but he still recalled the stories with plenty of enthusiasm.

I loved hearing about the pilot who would fall asleep during a familiar flight, the snobby restaurant staff who wouldn’t seat a gentleman unless he was wearing a coat and tie, the flirty stewardess who looked forward to the handsome business men, and the stories go on and on. The first book I remember falling in love with was “The Secret Garden”, but the first stories were the ones my daddy would tell me during a bath or just before bed. Even if we as parents are not writers or avid readers, we can help our children love reading and writing if we share family stories with them. Even a quick story about our day at the office is interesting to our children and helps them understand a world that may be completely foreign to them.

What was the first story you fell in love with? Was it written and published or just a familiar family story? Who or what do you credit for your love of reading and/or writing? Please share your thoughts in the comments – it’s always fabulous to hear from YOU!

Photo Credit: Oh! Photography 
Crystal is a church musician, business owner, active journaler, writer and blogger as well as a dairy
farmer. She lives in Reedsville, Wisconsin with her husband, four young children (Carmen 8, Andre turning 7 next week, Breccan 20 months, and Delphine 11 weeks), two dogs, two rabbits, four little piggies, and over 200 Holsteins. You can find Crystal blogging and reviewing books and all sorts of other stuff at:


Sioux Roslawski said...

Crystal--I think the first story I truly fell in love with was "Charlotte's Web." I rejoiced, I laughed, I cried.

(Carmen looks like a mini you... What a doll ;)

Crystal Otto said...

Thanks Sioux! Charlottes Web is still the reason I have a spider relocation service as opposed to killing them.

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