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Ask the Expert: 10 Tips for Making Story Time Come Alive
By Lenora McWhorter

My classroom has a wonderful library filled with children’s literature, however, I’m always having to remind my teachers to use story time and books as part of their daily curriculum. Can you share some ideas to help my teachers make story time active, fun, and a part of each day?

– Samantha Curtail, Castle Rock, CO


Story time is a special time to inspire imagination, foster emerging literacy skills, and plant the seeds for a young child’s lifelong interest in reading and books. Through story time, you help children build vocabulary, develop listening skills, increase attention span, promote oral communication, and teach new concepts and skills. Most importantly, story time is a time for FUN!  Use the suggestions in this article to make your story times come alive.

1. Set the Scene. Arrange a special setting to gather the children together. Select a colorful carpet, sit outside under a tree, or arrange beanbags and/or cushions for the children to sit on in a quiet corner of the classroom.  

2. Get in Character. Wear a costume, bring in puppets, or use special props to highlight your story. 

3. Act it Out. Give each character a different voice. If the children know the plot and words to the story well, allow them to act it out as they recall it. 

4. Recap the story. Ask the children “what if” questions by extending the story’s ending. Follow through on each character and ask the children, “What do you think? What would happen if the characters acted differently?” “Can you make up a different ending to the story?” 

5. Reread the Story. Read the story a second time and have the children fill in the blanks or finish the sentence. 

6. Personalize It. Insert names of children in the story, change names of towns and characters to familiar settings, and allow children to become involved in the story. Discuss how the characters feel so the children can share the characters’ emotions. 

7. Involve Everyone. Try to involve all of the children in story time, but do not force them to participate. Being “actively involved” to some children is watching, listening, and sensing. Encourage shy children to join in when they are comfortable and ready. 

8. Tell “Once Upon a Time” Stories. These stories can be adapted from reality or made up using a favorite character. For example, you could make up a story about “Little Miss Muffet” before and after she sat on the tuffet. Allow Miss Muffet to eat pancakes and syrup, and have a puppy sit down beside her as her friend instead of a spider. 

9. Imagine the Possibilities. Using the imagination is very stimulating for young children. Closing the eyes creates excitement and allows the imagination to expand. Introduce the story by saying, “I see a,” then set the scenery or give a description such as, “I see a red brick house with no windows. The chimney reaches almost to the sky.” Detail the story with action words. 

10. Stories can be Relaxing. Books such as, Time for Bed by Mem Fox or Hush!: A Thai Lullaby by Minfong Ho help children relax at naptime. The endings of these books or others can be extended to include “And Lucy, Jordan, Brendan, and Joshua lay on their cots, closed their eyes, and drifted on to dreamland.”


Lenora McWhorter is a retired early childhood educator and grandmother of three. After working in a Head Start setting for more than 15 years, she now enjoys writing poetry and Sunday School Quarterlies for kindergarteners.