Books and Recordings

Children Tell Stories: Teaching and Using Storytelling in the Classroom

Table of Contents
Updates/Additions Children Tell Stories Cover

2005, Richard C. Owen, Katonah, NY (1-800-336-5588)

Children Tell Stories Movie Now Available Free Online

The twenty-minute movie included on the DVD that accompanies our award-winning book, Children Tell Stories: Teaching and Using Storytelling in the Classroom, can be found at this link. The moving video is visual evidence of the ways in which storytelling helps children bloom and blossom. As one reviewer noted, it “does not show child actors telling stories perfectly but rather students doing their best, enjoying themselves, and taking pride in what they've accomplished.” It makes clear that oral storytelling is an integral component of literacy, and that the connections to reading, writing, and thinking run deep. Our fondest desire is that the book and video continue to inspire teachers to make storytelling an integral part of the classroom.

Winner of the Anne Izard Storytellers' Choice Award

Winner of a 2006 Storytelling World Gold Award

Get 5 college credits for reading this book. For details, see

Children Tell Stories: Teaching and Using Storytelling in the Classroom is updated with the newest research, links to current learning standards, new photos, and an array of multicultural stories and resources. The first edition of Children Tell Stories (1990) won an Anne Izard Storyteller's Choice Award and was praised by award committee members as "an infectiously enthusiastic book on the methods and merits of teaching storytelling to children . . . imaginative, inspiring, easy to read, and tremendously engaging . . . a terrific book that will be a classic for years to come." This edition includes a dramatic DVD that shows students learning to tell stories.

To read the first chapter from this book, click here. :

Chapter 1: The Power of Storytelling in the Classroom

To watch a four minute excerpt of the documentary that accompanies the book, click here.

Book Reviews: Children Tell Stories

"Anyone who works with children will be amazed at the power of storytelling to move listeners and tellers alike. This book exemplifies that power. Adults can easily get children started with the helpful instructions, narratives, examples, quick exercises or hint boxes, and story bibliographies provided. The bibliographies feature a hefty chunk of folktales-the natural structural beginning point-plus easily told picture books. Family stories are encouraged as well. A supplemental DVD shows winsome real children telling stories in a variety of settings: a third grade workshop, a family storytelling night, and at school. Practicing classroom, ESL, and literacy teachers explain why this skill is so important to children's reading, writing, speaking, and thinking. The authors provide guidelines for set-up, helping children use expression and gestures, and being a supportive coach. Venues for celebrating stories, assessment and self-evaluation tips, and stories to print out and jump-start storytellers are also included. It is a great package for parents, teachers, club leaders, and drama coaches to help children discover and rejoice in their, perhaps newfound, abilities to spin stories in ways that will enchant listeners. Appendices include: suggested anthologies keyed to easy, medium, and hard; storytelling resources, websites, and recordings; references; and an index."

- Children's Literature - Susan Hepler, co-author of the classic Children's Literature in the Elementary School

"Hamilton and Weiss have thoroughly revised and updated their award winning Children Tell Stories in a new edition that is an indispensable guide to all aspects of teaching storytelling. An accompanying DVD brings the entire process to life, following the progress of third graders as they learn stories, cope with their fears, and master their tellings for presentation at a family event. Interviews with children, teachers, and families provide a broad context for the storytelling process."

- Book Links

"Combining enthusiasm and inspiration with practical tips, handouts, and resources, Hamilton and Weiss offer a comprehensive second edition that will be useful to both novice and experienced tellers. Citing studies that confirm the educational value of storytelling, the authors demonstrate how such activities correlate well with state standards that involve language-arts skills of listening, speaking, reading, and writing. Step-by-step instructions on effective story selection, learning, and telling will empower even the most timid teller. In addition, the authors give many suggestions for connecting storytelling with writing and other classroom activities. Children's librarians, library media specialists, and teachers will appreciate the complete bibliographies, listing "Picture Books for Telling in Four Categories of Difficulty," and anthologies whose stories are coded for levels of difficulty. Unit plans, strong bibliographies, numerous activity and exercise suggestions, ideas for differentiated instruction, and a detailed resource-rich appendix add to the value of this book. The accompanying high-quality DVD shows children and adults telling stories, gives Web links, and includes 25 stories to download and print. This resource goes a few steps further than Nancy Schimmel's Just Enough to Make a Story (Sisters' Choice, 1992) and Kendall Haven's Super Simple Storytelling (Libraries Unlimited, 2000)."

- School Library Journal

"Now in a new second edition, Children Tell Stories: Teaching and Using Storytelling in the Classroom is the award-winning creation of Martha Hamilton and Mitch Weiss, who have been telling stories as "Beauty and the Beast Storytellers" for twenty-five years (and they never say who is the beauty and who is the beast). Chapters reveal the educational benefits of storytelling, how to get started with storytelling in the classroom, helping students choose stories to tell, assessing student storytellers, and much more. An accompanying DVD of helpful videos, web links, and stories to print out enhances this wonderful resource especially for educators, but also useful to home schoolers and child care providers."

- Midwest Book Review

"This book is as good as its cover and its cover is t-e-r-r-i-f-i-c! When you look at the book, and most importantly when you dive into the wealth of information within it, it is clear that storytellers Martha Hamilton and Mitch Weiss know storytelling is fun in its appeal and a powerful tool for learning. They've improved on an award-winning book that explores methods and merits for teaching storytelling to children. Their generosity and intelligence make the second edition with its DVD even more inspiring. The DVD alone is worth the price of the product with its unobtrusive camera work and delightful music. We are in the room, not watching from afar. The DVD also introduces us to the most engaging children and adults. Kids have clearly strengthened public speaking skills and enhanced their self-esteem. In a world gone mad with teaching to the test, this project attests to the value of humanizing learning, and building a learning community in the classroom and beyond. Turn off the sound and you can see the success of this work in the faces of kids and administrators alike.

- Carol Birch, award-winning storyteller and librarian

"This dynamic revision of Hamilton and Weiss's 1990 classic comes ready for the present teaching challenges, rich in research results linked to learning standards. The new, expanded edition comes with many new activities, handouts, and resources, including a companion DVD with engaging videos of a storytelling unit in action, students telling stories at a festival, and 25 printable stories for students to tell."

- Storytelling Magazine

"Children Tell Stories has always been the place to start for teachers who want to use storytelling in the classroom. As shown by Martha and Mitch, storytelling can transform not just a child, or a classroom, but a school. As many years as I've been working with children and teachers, I still go back to it for advice and suggestions, and I've given it to more than one teacher who asks me what to do. Martha and Mitch have given all of us a huge gift -- and this second edition is even better than the first!"

- Bill Harley, two-time Grammy award-winning storyteller, songwriter and author

"Hands down, the best book on teaching storytelling to children! It contains everything you need to know to successfully integrate storytelling into your school's curriculum. Every teacher should have a copy."

- Willy Claflin, storyteller, former teacher, and winner of numerous national awards

"Mitch and Martha have packed a lifetime of wisdom and fun into this volume. Offering a solid theoretical basis for the use of story, they go on to make the ancient art of storytelling a vibrant tool for teaching. Teachers in a storytelling class that I'm currently teaching say:

- Judith Black, award-winning storyteller and Adjunct Faculty of Lesley University

"This terrific book is a comprehensive guide for those who want to tell stories themselves and for teachers who want their students to tell stories. It provides a thoughtful and thorough rationale for teaching storytelling - a rationale that will convince everyone in a school community of the academic values incorporated in teaching storytelling. Children Tell Stories is packed full of a wide variety of stories and techniques for engaging both student tellers and their audiences. It includes a Storytelling Resources section that lists Storytelling Awards, Sources, and Web Sites for further information. And, tucked away inside the back cover is a DVD of the authors telling tales and teaching third graders to become storytellers. I would advise teachers not only to watch the video first themselves, but to show it to their students too. The students will really enjoy seeing other students struggle to become proficient - and better than proficient - to become effective storytellers. Even though the focus is on a third grade class, middle school and high school students are shown telling stories as well, so the DVD can be used to inspire students of many ages."

- Barbara Lipke, storyteller, former classroom teacher, and author

"The second edition of this wonderful book includes fresh and newly invigorated hints for teaching storytelling to children, teens . . . even adults! Thoughtful chapters on the importance of storytelling in education and a dynamic DVD of kids in action as storytellers will motivate any educator. Extensive bibliographies, hand-outs to reproduce, and a great selection of tellable stories make this a must-have book."

- Dr. Margaret Read MacDonald, Folklorist and author of over forty books on storytelling

"This thoughtful and practical resource, written by committed and compassionate storytellers, should be in every school library in the country. Teachers will use this book and DVD repeatedly to convey the power of story and the invaluable skill of storytelling to their students."

- Jay O'Callahan, Storyteller, Winter Olympics Bard, and NEA recipient

"The first edition of this book, published in 1990, has been a part of every bibliography I've compiled for teachers in the past 15 years. I will be promoting this excellent second edition with equal enthusiasm.

Like its predecessor, this volume is aimed at developing students as tellers, particularly students in grades two through eight. But teachers preparing to model storytelling for their classes will also benefit from the exercises, as will older students and adults since the information can be adapted to any age. While this new edition is clearly based on the previous one, it is much enlarged. Martha and Mitch, who perform in tandem as Beauty and the Beast Storytellers, have continued to explore the world of student tellers during the last fifteen years. They have updated bibliographies and resources and kept abreast of new research into storytelling and education.

To this new edition they have added an entertaining and informative DVD. The DVD includes stories in printable form, and charming videos of four students telling their stories to assembled classmates and family members at a community celebration. The video works for me because it does not show child actors telling stories perfectly but rather shows students doing their best, enjoying themselves and taking pride in what they've accomplished. There is also a great video introduction to the book which includes classroom footage, comments by teachers, librarians, parents, and students and, of course, Martha and Mitch, themselves.

The expanding and updating of material from the first edition has resulted in some new chapters including, among others, Teachers Coaching Students,Students Coaching Students; Assessing Student Storytellers; and Storytelling Clubs and Troupes. Handouts have been reworked and added to. A full page chart has a sampling of storytelling activities and some of the State Standards they meet - state standards which are very like our own curriculum standards.

The layout of the book has been upgraded, too. While the other book was attractive, this edition has even more white space, more photos, more student artwork and handwriting, and good use of sidebars and text boxes. A bright new cover features photos of four students telling stories, including the photo of a girl which was on the first edition. That girl, now 23, has graduated from college and works in the world of finance. She credits the storytelling project in grade three with her ability and ease in public speaking.

Teachers who would like to get their students telling stories have a great deal of the prep work done for them in the chapter entitled Planning and Preparing for a Storytelling Unit. There is a sample letter home to family members introducing the project and a sample timetable for a four week unit. There are suggestions for how to include ESL students and students with disabilities, and comments on why the authors discourage contests and instead suggest other types of culminating events. An entire chapter is devoted to what those events might look like.

Educators can use the material in this book knowing that it is based on experience. Hamilton and Weiss have been leading a storytelling project in the Ithaca (New York) School District for the past 18 years. Initially a project which followed the same students for three years, from grades three through five, it evolved into one for grade threes only. The initial project meant that two grades of students wouldn't be a part of the storytelling at all, and parents who had seen the result of the storytelling wanted all children in the system to be exposed to it. In an e-mail conversation Hamilton and Weiss told me "So in the end storytelling was essentially made part of the third grade curriculum here in Ithaca. This way every student in the district gets to learn a story and tell it. Although it was wonderful working with the same students for three years, moving the project to third grade was much more democratic. We've established an incredible working relationship with the third grade teachers and there are a few other teachers who do storytelling projects as well. But we think it's something that kids need to do every year so it becomes second nature."

I heartily agree. And with the help of this book, there is no reason why teachers should not be able to help all students discover the delight and empowerment of telling a story. Highly recommended for all school and public libraries and Boards of Education."

- Mary-Eileen McClear, The Appleseed Quarterly

"Children Tell Stories is THE book for creating a new generation of storytellers. I discovered the first edition as a teacher and it walked me through all the steps of teaching storytelling. No teacher should be without this amazing tool for exploring the power of narrative. This edition is an even bigger treasure trove than the first, and the DVD brings the techniques to life."

- Esme Raji Codell, Author of the best-selling Educating Esme

"Mitch and Martha have done it again - created a perfectly wonderful guide to helping children learn to tell stories. From answering the question, "why bother?" to providing suggestions for celebrating students' storytelling accomplishments, Beauty and the Beast Storytellers give practical guidance every step of the way. Classroom teachers, librarians, storytelling artists-in-residence, and anyone else with a desire to help children learn to tell stories will find a helpful, encouraging, and trustworthy companion here. Want to create a library with lots of good stories to tell? You won't find a better guide than the bibliographies included. The accompanying DVD shows real children, not over-coached children, telling stories with delight. Their tellings should prove inspiring to the emerging tellers users of this book will encounter. The Table of Contents and Index will quickly help you return to just the section needed as you work with a variety of tellers. By the way, if you are a beginning adult storyteller, you'll find lots of helpful information here too."

- Mary Hamilton, storyteller and master teacher (no relation!)