Key characteristics of a successful short story to tell to children.

Firstly there is the structure and content and then there are the crucial characteristics of successful delivery…. This is my summary of those qualities. And here is a link to a winning story based commercial which fills each and every one of the content criteria. It is not a story told orally, but it could be so very easily… with a few props and a few  minutes spent memorising the plot. Interestingly, I once found a folk tale about a dog and an elephant, which basically follows a similar plot line and would be just as easy to act out, and tell.

check out these images of dog and elephant friendships!

Key qualities of a good story to tell with children and ways to tell it.

Content of story



Quality of repetition – phrases, motif, rhymes, patterns of three

Clear beginning and end, with beginning that cuts to the chase

Content somehow relates to our known everyday experiences

Limited number of characters

Some challenge/conflict/ problem to be overcome…moments of tension

S/hero is in some ways transformed through the events of the story… wiser, stronger, richer, humbler, more loving, etc

Definite ending/climax/ safe home again etc

Events and characters introduced early on are woven in again by the end.

Manner of delivery

Introducing it with music, a chant or a verse or a call and respond chant

Setting it out with respect and ceremony

Make eye contact

Vary pace, tone, volume

Be very involved yourself. Believe in it, be the story as you tell it

Feel smell, hear, touch things …use your body language to engage their senses

Opportunities to participate and contribute…sounds , songs, ideas, names

Address children by name

Relate it to the children’s experience

Include new words of a repeated refrain or verse to tune of well known rhyme

Use your voice gently – don’t over emote

Emphasise the verbs…rather than the nouns

Avoid words like beautiful, nice, and yummy. Use specific, precise, interesting words