Sharing Stories Matters


NEW YORK, N.Y. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — When you sit down to read or tell a story with your child, who takes the lead? New research suggests a parent’s reading and storytelling style differs among cultures and plays a part in language development.

When Lucia Mazzoni picks the story, it’s often from her favorite box set; stories about Maya Angelou and other female leaders.

But no matter what the topic, it’s about sharing time together.

“We try to let the book be a means to communicate and tell the story,” detailed Lucia’s father Esteban.

New York University developmental psychologist Gigliana Melzi studies cultural patterns in literacy and language development. Building on prior work comparing mothers in Peru and the U.S., researchers wanted to know how U.S. Latino parents involved their children during story time. Eighty families shared a picture book without words. They found three distinct story telling styles: labelers talked about the book by asking children to label objects in the picture book, storytellers narrated a rich story without asking very many questions, and abridged storytellers told a shorter story.

Melzi told Ivanhoe, “Book sharing is absolutely amazing. It does support children’s language and literacy skills.”

Melzi said telling and sharing oral stories is also important. Use open-ended questions to encourage participation. After six months Melzi found that “The storytellers that talked a lot had children with the best linguistic outcomes.”

Professor Melzi said what is important is to share stories and to give your child the opportunity to either tell the story with you or to share their thoughts after the story.

Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Supervising and Field Producer; Milvionne Chery, News Producer; Roque Correa, Editor; Kirk Manson, Videographer.

Produced by Child Trends News Service in partnership with Ivanhoe Broadcast News and funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation.