StoryPLAY: The story behind every story

If I asked, “What makes the Harry Potter series, Pride and Prejudice, 1984 such great books?”, most people would mention the well-developed characters, the vivid descriptions of the time and place or the fascinating storylines. Are these the core elements that make a story great? Is there a story behind every great story?

Why Storytime is Well Spent

Stories, or narratives, play an important part in a child’s early literacy development.

Research has established that oral narrative skills directly influence children’s ability to succeed in school. Narrative abilities in pre-school children predict long-term language skills and later academic performance. Cameron, Hunt, & Linton, 1988

We all organise our experiences in the form of stories in order to help ourselves:

  • Understand events
  • Predict what might happen
  • Decide what to do
  • Share coherent personal experiences

Socially, sharing of personal information helps us to make and maintain friendships. Academically, comprehension of narratives is a major source of learning and is at the centre of academic achievement (McKeown & Beck, 2006).

Through stories, children are exposed to more complex, abstract language that they may not hear in everyday conversation.

So what is it about stories that we want our children to understand?

Understanding Story Structure

When children are read to frequently, they will learn that all stories have a similar underlying structure. Just as every house has an inside frame that we can’t see, every story is built around an invisible structure called story grammar. There are five key elements in story grammar: Characters, Setting, Problem, Actions, Resolution.

Understanding story grammar is so critical to understanding stories themselves. Let’s delve into story grammar a little more deeply.

Characters, Setting, Problem, Actions, Resolution

StoryPLAY story grammarHighlighting elements of the story (characters, setting, problem, actions and resolution) during the reading with comments and questions enables children to better understand the storyline. The more children listen to stories, the deeper their understanding of story grammar will be, which will be demonstrated in the stories they tell.

Sneak-a-peek into StoryPLAY Activities

We have picked the best books for highlighting story grammar – they are not only attractive with interesting illustrations, but are also well-written with clear storylines.

Our StoryPLAY Activity Cards will provide:

  1. Information on the story grammar focus for the books in that particular box.
  2. Ways to engage your child in conversations about story grammar.
  3. Engaging activities to support your child in story retell, generation or innovation.

Your child is constantly exposed to stories in the form of books, movies, TV shows and personal stories. Help your child make sense of these narratives by highlighting the story grammar elements in picture books and challenging their higher order thinking with comprehension questions and comments.

Thanks for hearing our call,

Your Little Birdies


    1. Cameron, C., Hunt, A., & Linton, M. (1988). Medium effects on children’s story rewriting and story retelling. First Language, 8, 1-8.
    2. McKeown M.G., & Beck, I.L. (2006). Encouraging young children’s language interaction in stories. In D.K. Dickinson, D.K. & S.B. Neumann, (Eds), Handbook of early literacy research: Volume 2 (281-294). New York: Gilford Press.
    3. Weitzman, E. & Greenberg, J. (2010). ABC and Beyond: Building Emergent Literacy in Early Childhood Settings. The Hanen Centre: Toronto.