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Tips for presenting storytelling program

Storytelling is the art of performing stories from memory. You may have used a book to learn the story, but you do not read the book to the audience.

Storytelling is the organized presentation of books and activities related to a theme. The books are actually read to the audience. If you are not comfortable with the idea of telling story from memory or you do not have time to spend learning and practicing the story, storytelling will probably not be on your activities of choice. If you want to “test the waters” tell one story as part of storytime program. Do not try to memorize 30 minutes worth of stories on your first attempt.

There are a number of stories that you probably already know by heart or would just have to read once to refresh your memory. Remember Goldilocks and the Three Bears? How about The Gingerbread man, The Three Little Pigs, or Little Red Riding Hood?

Telling a story with or without props is still storytelling even if you do it as a part of storytime. Reading a book is reading a book; telling a story is storytelling.

librarian with propsSo Where To Begin?

Select your story or stories. Decide whether you will tell stories on one theme – dogs stories, scary stories etc – or if you will tell some of your “favorite stories” Folktales from other countries have traditionally been a rich source of stories for many storytellers,. Spooky stories are another favorite, although you have to consider your community and the age level you will be reaching very carefully. Some experienced storytellers like to tell personal stories – about their own families, lives and experiences. There are many sources for stories to tell, some of which you will find at the send of this section.

Read the story silently to get the rhythm and flow of the story. Consider whether or not it is a good candidate t use as an audience participation story. Does the story lend itself to using props t help in the telling. Do you need to make any changes in the story? Make it longer or shorter? Will you give out trinkets or treats at the end of your sessions?

Next Learn your story or stories. There is no right way to do this. You will find your own best way with experience. The key is to practice. First practice to yourself then, if you are brave,practice watching yourself in a mirror, then enlist the aid of friends or family to listen. You might even have someone videotape you so you will have the benefit of being able to see your performance the way the audience would.

Try learning part of the story until you can tell that part well, then keep adding sections, practicing from the beginning each time you have learned a section. Some stories will have to be memorized word for word, others can be adapted as you tell them. Once you know the story well, you can work on how you present the story.

Plan Your Performance

The general recommendation is to let the language tell the story. Do not try to be a one woman or one mans band and act out all the parts. If you know your story inside and out and have practiced until you can tell it in your sleep, you can consider using different voices for your characters. This is more difficult than it might seem. Especially if you area new teller, Decide where you will use different inflections and volume levels to add emphasis and interest to the story. Attention spans and levels of understanding will vary from one age group to another. Therefore, it is helpful if you can limit your audience to a narrowly defined age group. The younger the audience, the shorter the stories should be. Plan stories that use audience participation or use fingerplay, song, or movement activity between stories it involve the children and to get the wiggles out

  • practice,
  • practice
  • practice

boy with booksLet’s Do It

If you are telling a story as part of storytime, remain seated to maintain the intimate nature of that experience. However,if you are presenting a storytelling program, standing will make it easier to move around within the story and will create a more theatrical experience for the audience.

Tell your longest story first while the audience is the most attentive. Using a repetitive phrase or exaggerated motions may increase audience enjoyment and/or involvement. Make sure you pace the story appropriately. Do not rush through it or drag it out.

Make eye contact with as many people in the audience as you can. You want each person to think you are telling the story just to him or her.

Enjoy the experience. It should be as rewarding for you as for the audience.

Taken from

Children’s and Youth Services Staff Handbook et al Elaine M. McCraken published by Georgia Public Library Service in 2002.  Used with permission

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