Home Articles Reader Opinion Editorial Book Reviews Discussion Writers Guide About TCRecord
transparent 13

Don't Leave the Story in the Book: Using Literature to Guide Inquiry in Early Childhood Classrooms

reviewed by Susan Weber - February 13, 2012

coverTitle: Don't Leave the Story in the Book: Using Literature to Guide Inquiry in Early Childhood Classrooms
Author(s): Mary Hynes-Berry
Publisher: Teachers College Press, New York
ISBN: 0807752878, Pages: 216, Year: 2011
Search for book at Amazon.com

In the past, storytelling was a primary method of teaching. However, in today’s classrooms, storytelling may not hold the same value to teachers as book reading does, and to some it is considered a “lost” art.  Yet research has indicated improvement in students’ skills, such as reading, language, problem-solving, and imaginative thought, when storytelling is implemented in the classroom (Groce, 2004; Isbell, Sobol, Lindauer, & Lowrance, 2004).  Hynes-Berry’s book, Don’t Leave the Story in the Book, includes numerous approaches for teachers to use books to encourage children to engage in creative thinking and become storytellers. Hynes-Berry’s methods, as opposed to the typical method of just reading to students, use books in a well-rounded fashion.  She is a storyteller who has worked with students and teachers in literacy programs, such as the Hug-a-Book Foundation and the Annenberg Foundation (Stone Soup Network Project).  She chose her title wisely, as this book demonstrates the importance of storytelling and the practice of extending stories.  Teachers will have specific examples about how to choose, tell, and then expand stories into the curriculum, touching each developmental domain and guiding inquiry for young children.

Don’t Leave the Story in the Book is created in two parts and contains nine chapters.  In the first part of the book Hynes-Berry provides strong examples of her experiences with teachers and students.  Each chapter is written with a focus on a traditional story, legend, or pourquoi tale from children's literature.  She uses these stories to share her experiences and provides unique and creative methods for connecting theory to practice. This entices the reader with a desire to embed her storytelling suggestions in the classroom.  

The first chapter begins with Stone Soup. Hynes-Berry metaphorically uses the story as a “catalyst” to describe the variety of ways stories can be utilized to change a book from a simple literacy tool to a curriculum enhancer.  With her examples teachers can encourage students to be creative thinkers and problem solvers.  She describes and offers specific theoretical examples, such as parallel processing, to clarify the importance of using stories in a variety of ways.

The second chapter, based around The Three Little Pigs, introduces the three E’s of quality intellectual work (p. 32).  Hynes-Berry uses her knowledge of brain research to inform readers on recent developments in the field, while simplifying the content for easy understanding. She explains the importance of a connection to prior knowledge, using questions as a way to seek in-depth explanations, and inquiry and the expansion of communication.

Readers are encouraged to expand students’ knowledge in the third chapter with suggestions and examples on how to ask questions focused more on seeking the students’ perceptions of the story. In this chapter, Hynes-Berry elaborates on how and why teachers can broaden students’ thinking by stating the questions in ways that seek individual views.  As she tells a Chinese version of the ubiquitous Cinderella tale, which deviates from the original, she asks unique questions that lead students to share personal interpretation of the story lines.

In the fourth chapter, Hynes-Berry shares the story of Abiyoyo and describes how she intertwines play into the lessons. She offers suggestions for Reader’s Theatre (Hynes-Berry, 2012, p. 76), and outlines three concepts that could be integrated into stories: Satisfying, Intentional, and Problem-Solving (SIP). Here she offers an array of activities for teachers to use in their classroom practices.   

It would be inappropriate to write a book about storytelling without including advice to the readers about how to choose a good book.  In the fifth chapter, Haynes-Berry illustrates how to do this. She shares elements of quality including: text (storylines, characters, problems, themes, and language), illustrations, and socio-emotional sensitivity (p.88).  She uses the Goldilocks tale as a catalyst to connect readers with quality indicators.  

In the sixth chapter, and the conclusion to part one, Haynes-Berry uses the legend Tikki Tikki Tembo as her tool to help readers recognize how to connect stories to curriculum goals.  She describes how to tell this story with a focus on math and measurement.  There is an importance in enlightening teachers to use stories as a way to magnify the curriculum and strengthen outcomes.

The second part of the book emphasizes the foundational principles that determine the importance of connecting storytelling to art, math, science, social studies, and literacy. She describes the ways students’ understanding can be enhanced from basic comprehension to something more solid as they move from concrete, pictorial, to symbolic means (p.124).  Hynes-Berry takes the pourquoi tale, How did the Sun and Moon Come to be in the Sky?, and connects the tale to scientific reasoning and thought.

One strength of the book is Hynes-Berry’s unique use of metaphor.  She refers to student learning in relation to moving up and down a ladder (p. 50).  This helps teachers understand how to choose goals and to structure questions when deciding on a story to read.  Another strength is the emphasis on building viable learning communities within the classroom.  A challenge in the reading is that a few sections lack references.  At times readers may read a fact and think, “Where can I find the source?”.

Literacy is a struggle for many students in our nation (Cunningham, 2001). It is critical for teachers to learn a variety of approaches for improving language development and motivating students to want to read. Hynes-Berry states, “The most tragic and troubling consequence of NCLB has been the heavy handed suppression of free-flowing constructive and imaginative/dramatic play” (2012, p. 66). According to Schickedanz & McGee (2010), when children are given ample opportunity to use language, they have a greater potential to increase vocabulary and syntactic skills.  Hynes-Berry’s book offers numerous suggestions on how to give students such opportunity.  Her approach is practical, simple, and is based on solid theoretical research on how young students learn.


Cunningham, J. (2001). The national reading report. Reading Research Quarterly, 36(3), 326-335.

Groce, R. D. (2004). An experiential study of elementary teachers with the storytelling process: Interdisciplinary benefits associated with teacher training and classroom integration. Reading Improvement, 41(2), 122-128.

Isbell, R., Sobol, J., Lindauer, L. & Lowrance, A. (2004). The effects of storytelling and story reading on the oral language complexity and the story comprehension of young children.  Early Childhood Education Journal, 32(3), 157-163.

Schickedanz, J. A. & McGee, L. M. (2010). The NELP report on shared reading interventions (chapter 4): Extending the story.  Educational Researcher, 39(4). 323-329.

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record, Date Published: February 13, 2012
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 16701, Date Accessed: 1/20/2022 12:55:41 AM

Purchase Reprint Rights for this article or review
Article Tools
Related Articles

Related Discussion
Post a Comment | Read All

About the Author
  • Susan Weber
    University of South Florida
    E-mail Author
    SUSAN WEBER, M. Ed., is a graduate assistant at the University of South Florida in the Curriculum & Instruction Early Childhood Education program. Her research focuses on professional development. She is a Training Coordinator for the Department of Children and Families and oversees training and testing for practitioners entering the early childhood field.
Member Center
In Print
This Month's Issue