The Art of Storytelling


Despite the fact that I read to my own children from the time they were babies, I never thought to tell them stories. I must admit that storytelling seemed almost old-fashioned, something my grandparents may have done, like a lost art. Not only that but I am not the least bit dramatic or creative—two qualities I assumed you had to possess in order to be a good storyteller.

What I didn’t understand is that all you have to have is a love for the spoken word, just as I have always had a passionate love of the written word. And of course, an appreciative audience never hurts!

Reading has always been part of my three-year-old grandson’s bedtime routine whenever he stays overnight with me, but I have only just started to incorporate storytelling as well. For one thing, I find it is a great motivator to get a reluctant child into bed. I only have to mention telling a story and my little grandson hops up onto my bed and buries himself under the covers, squealing “Which story, Nonna? Which story?” Or if he has a current favourite, he’ll demand that one.

Admittedly, my repertoire was rather limited at first—I fell back on a few tried-and-true fairy tales—but I have since branched out into many others and I’ve even taken a stab at a few made-up stories based on my grandson’s interests.

Delving into storytelling has allowed me to revisit an interest in fairy tales, folktales, myths, legends and fables, many of which I remember from my own childhood. Of course, I have to consider what is age-appropriate for a three-year-old, but other than that, the choices are endless. The themes of many of these stories are universal and they are inherently relatable; that’s part of their appeal. They not only entertain, but they are also often informative, providing a springboard of sorts from which my grandson can learn about other places and cultures. And often in a subtle way, many of them illustrate and instill important lessons and values. Still further, some of them effectively model basic problem solving strategies.

Like reading, storytelling has a multitude of other benefits. It not only nurtures good listening skills, it allows a child to tap into their own creativity and imagination because they have to come up with their own images of the characters and settings. Storytelling develops a child’s ability to pay attention without the benefit of a visual aid, and it expands their vocabulary.

Memory is also strengthened; because my grandson is engaged, he remembers. I am sure he could tell many of my stories off by heart. In fact, I have often heard him quoting from a story I have told him. And he’s quick to correct me if I skip over something or forget a particular scene: “But Nonna, you forgot the part where the…”

What I love most about storytelling though is that it allows me to physically connect with my grandson; I am able to give him gentle back rubs, stroke his hair, or simply hold his hand in mine. We are able to connect face-to-face and eye-to-eye in a cozy, quiet setting so that he is able to see all of the facial expressions and gestures that go along with the telling of a good story; these effectively add another dimension to the tale being told. Not only that, but I am also able to gauge his reaction as to which parts of the story are his favourite (and are therefore worthy of a little embellishment). In short, storytelling is an effective means to foster our connection with one another.

Storytelling also has the added bonus of preparing my grandson for going to sleep. Not surprisingly, our sessions never fail to relax him; two or three stories later and his eyelids are usually droopy. Even on nights when our stories spark questions and conversation, these are carried out under the covers with his favourite stuffed animal as our only companion. Free from distractions, there have been times when he has fallen asleep literally in mid-conversation.

I consider storytelling to be a wonderful addition to my grandson’s bedtime routine on our sleepover nights. In fact, I wish I’d thought of it sooner. I hope it becomes a memorable part of his upbringing that he will want to share with his own children one day. After all, I’ve come to believe there is a storyteller in all of us.

Susan Gnucci
Susan Gnucci
Susan Gnucci is a local author and a proud “nonna” to an adorable four-year-old grand-son. She enjoys sharing her experiences as a first-time grandparent.