When children begin school, they need to extend their language skills to include reading and writing.

Telling and listening to stories provides a bridge between the oral language skills of early childhood and the more formal language of print. With the ability to tell stories develops the ability to talk about things outside the here and now, to understand how we use language to express cause and effect and to talk about feelings and motivation. Storytelling skills are used in social situations, for understanding Math word problems and even for writing up Chemistry lab reports.

By the time a child is five, his or her stories should have a clear beginning, middle and end. To encourage this ability in your child, ask her to retell a story you have just read. Ask questions like, “Who is in this story?” “What happened first?” “What happened in the end?” Use puppets and other props to help your child retell the story. As your child improves in her ability to tell stories, you can ask questions and make comments about cause and effect and feelings, such as, “How did he feel when that happened?” and “I wonder why she did that.”

Difficulty with understanding and producing stories can be a sign of a learning disability. A speech-language pathologist can help your child to develop the storytelling skills that will help him to succeed in school and social situations.

Written by: Suzanne Bassett, speech-language pathologist, The Speech Therapy Centres of Canada Ltd.