The Power of Storytelling for Children in Second Language Acquisition

The Power of Storytelling

The Power of Storytelling for Children | Miss Panda Chinese |

What is your favorite story when you were little? You might have quite a few stories you enjoyed tremendously. How about your child? Have you repeatedly read the same book for your child just because she is fascinated by a character in a story?

Some very young kids will start filling in the words as parents read a familiar story. The power of stories makes an impact on your child from the very first book you share with her and onward.


Children are made readers on the laps of their parents.

-Emilie Buchwald


The Power of Storytelling

The power of storytelling for language acquisition can be significant for your child’s first language, second language, and any foreign language that your family takes on. Research over the years has shown the benefits of storytelling and language development in children.

Kids who are consistently exposed to a variety of stories display more advanced oral language skills. In the process, children also acquire a greater vocabulary. They also learn about syntax and sentence formation. (Speaker, Kathryne McGrath; Taylor, Deborah; Kamen, Ruth)

Listening to stories takes active listening and it leads to learning. The learning seems to come naturally because well-designed storytelling is playful, dramatic, and captivating. When kids are immersed in a storytelling session there is a movie playing in their minds.


When I look back, I am so impressed again with the life-giving power of literature. If I were a young person today, trying to gain a sense of myself in the world, I would do that again by reading, just as I did when I was young.

Maya Angelou


The Benefits of Storytime

Many families set aside storytime for kids before bedtime. Some families also have storytime/reading time for the kids during quiet time. Many parents with young children also attend storytime at their neighborhood public libraries.

However, due to the pandemic, storytime time has moved from the libraries to an online environment. It is different. But, it gives you and your child more opportunities. When there is more language, there is more fun. You can travel with the stories. And, this time you don’t need to hop on an airplane. It is a virtual experience. 

Here and now your family can experience storytime online in three different languages: 

English Storytime with Storyline Online

Spanish Storytime with The Spanish Experiment

Mandarin Storytime with Miss Panda

The Power of Storytelling for Children | Miss Panda Chinese |

No matter where your children participate in storytime, the key is to be consistent. Listening is input. Reading is input. Stories can provide both at the same time. 

Your child needs high-quantity and high-quality input before s/he can produce the target language. That is a similar process like first language acquisition. Listening first, then speaking. Reading first, then writing.

For the second/foreign language acquisition, your child needs proficiency level-appropriate content. After each storytime session, you can add simple follow-up activities like coloring, drawing, sequencing, and Q&A to recall the story and reinforce literacy skills. 

Look for the signs of engagement: [key skills and benefits]

  1. Do you see active listening in your child? [Listening skills, comprehension.]
  2. Is your child excited and curious about what’s coming next in the story? [Thinking skills, imagination, comprehension.]
  3. Does your child ask questions about the story? [Participation, language skills, cognitive development.]
  4. Is your child following the story, the gestures, movements, and/or questions that are presented in the story? [Focus, participation, social skills.]
  5. Does your child talk about the story or the storytime afterward? [Curiosity, thinking, logic, and language skills.]


Within books, one can find a mansion of gold.  Within books, one can find treasure.

-Emperor Sòng Zhēn Zōng, Chinese Emperor 


Building Literacy Through Storytelling

Storytelling is one of the oldest forms of communication. It has a long history and it is an effective way of teaching a language and various subjects. 

Stories are memorable, fun, and engaging. In a storytime, the experience can also be highly interactive.    

English stories and storytime are more accessible. There are also plenty of books for parents to choose from in the libraries and book stores.

Target language Storytime is available with the help of the internet. Parents have more resources than ever before. 

You can locate online storytime via your local library or major video platforms. Also, make sure you check out podcast apps/platforms for programming created for children and families in the target language that your family is working on.  

If you are learning the target language with your child together and you are at the early stage a well-designed bilingual storytime can be a better and comprehensible input resource for you. 

Is an immersion storytime better? You will gradually move to that goal as you and your child advance in the target language. What you want to see is your child wants to be a part of the storytime and enjoys it with some support of English. 

The same technique also applies to reading stories in the target language. Bilingual storybooks with pronunciation support are a good start for Mandarin. Bilingual books with few words and short sentences are great for young learners. Check out the board books and storybooks for toddlers and kindergarteners. What do you notice?        

Professor Stephen Krashen, a linguist and an educational researcher, has great insight from his studies: “We acquire language when we understand messages when we understand what people tell us, and when we understand what we read.” This is an important reminder for language educators who are teaching world language and for parents who are raising multilingual children.  


I’m wondering what to read next.

-Roald Dahl


The Power of Storytelling for Children | Miss Panda Chinese | MulticulturalKidBlogs

Experience Target Language In Stories

“A long long time ago…” is the beginning of a story. It is a signal to kids. “Hi, it’s time for a story.” These are inviting words. It is a universal way to begin a story. 

Storytelling is a form of entertainment. It can lead children to talk about the stories in the target language. It can inspire big kids to read and also write about the stories that they have listened to.

The interesting thing is storytelling is not just for children. It works for adults as well. 

Start adding storytelling and storytime to your child’s daily activity. Let the imagination fly. Let your child add her idea to the story you are telling. Experience target language learning with your child in stories! 


There is more treasure in books than in all the pirate’s loot on Treasure Island.

-Walt Disney



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Amanda is a teacher, podcaster, and author. Parents and kids know her as "Miss Panda!" Her streaming lesson album Let's Learn Mandarin Chinese with Miss Panda guides parents to bring everyday Chinese to their young children with laughter. Her podcast is Playful Chinese which helps families to keep Mandarin active every day! She is the author of FIRST MANDARIN SOUNDS: An Awesome Chinese Word Book and Little Bun: A Bilingual Storybook About Feelings. You can connect with her at Miss Panda Chinese
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