Research validates the importance of listening to stories

This blog post was written by Steve Floyd, CEO of August House- the award-winning publisher of Children’s stories and folktales (25 of their audio titles are available to stream on Tales2go.) Thanks, Steve!

Did you ever wonder if there is any correlation between children listening to stories and significant improvements in their reading scores? Fortunately, researchers have been investigating this question and there is a growing body of research that documents the benefits of listening to stories, especially for young emerging readers who are developing their fundamental language skills.

In fact, highly respected scientists ranging from Howard Gardner at the Harvard University School of Education (who originated the theory of Multiple Intelligences) to neuroscience researchers using MRI studies like Dr. John Hutton at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital are validating the critical role that listening to stories has on young learners.

In Margaret Read MacDonald’s recent book, Teaching With Story: Classroom Connections to Storytelling, co-authored with Jennifer MacDonald Whitman and Nathaniel Whitman the authors point out a number of studies that affirm the value of sharing stories in a classroom environment. They organized their book into the 7 Cs of storytelling (Community, Character, Communication, Curriculum, Cultural Connections, Creativity and Confidence) and then included a chapter that highlights specific research that supports the value of listening to stories.

Another contributor to this growing body of evidence is Kendall Haven, a West Point graduate, respected researcher and master storyteller. In his book, STORY PROOF: The Science Behind the Startling Power of Story, Kendall documents recent cognitive research that shows how our brains are hardwired for story structure and engagement with stories. He followed up this success with another book, Story Smart where he offers additional research that highlights the power of listening to stories to inspire, influence and teach.

In Erik Jensen’s book, Teaching with the Brain in Mind he documents how memories are stored in different locations in the brain and the critical role that oral narratives play in connecting the content with our emotions. This emotional connection enhanced by listening to stories provides the critical context to build personal connections for a child that increases his or her ability to remember important facts.

The impact of listening to stories on memory is further documented in a PhD dissertation by Tommy Dale Oaks at the University of Tennessee who studied the significance of oral stories to influence the recall of facts.

In another study by Susan Trostle and Sandy Jean Hicks published in Reading Improvement, the authors found that there was a powerful impact on comprehension and vocabulary – two of the essential skills that the National Reading Panel (NRP) recommends for strengthening a child’s reading skills.

With this growing body of evidence about the impact that listening to stories has on learning, hopefully more classroom teachers will expand their use of this timeless and inexpensive way to improve a child’s reading proficiency, especially for children who are struggling to build their fundamental reading skills.

For more tips on how to use story effectively in the classroom, please sign-up for our Newsletter or blog at

You can stream August House titles such as Anansi and the Pot of Beans and Anansi and the Tug O’War with your Tales2go subscription. Sign up for a FREE TRIAL if you don't have one already :)


Anansi and the Pot of BeansAnansi

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