Play idea: Books and storytelling – Pūrākau pānui pukapuka

Books and storytelling give children the opportunity to develop the knowledge, skills and attitudes they need to use complex symbol systems that make up our society.

Level of complianceMain audienceOther


  • All Early Learning Services 
  • Educators, Teachers and Kaiako
  • Service Managers
  • Parents, Caregivers and Whānau

Children learn through play. Below is some information about a play idea for your children.

Reading, writing, listening and talking form the basis of children's literacy learning. Children need lots of language together with a wide variety of experiences.

Sharing books and reading is a vital activity for children's development. Children who experience and enjoy reading books with others develop a positive attitude towards books. This will help them when they learn to read.

Books and storytelling help children to

  • learn pre-reading skills such as how to hold a book and to read from left to right
  • learn new words and meanings
  • develop imagination
  • develop their interests
  • understand different social situations
  • understand that print carries the meaning of the story
  • share experiences with other children and adults.

Adults can support children by

  • reading and telling stories to them
  • talking about a story and its pictures helping them choose books
  • making sure books are accessible
  • asking them to talk about their day or other experiences
  • singing songs, chants and rhymes
  • pointing out letters and words
  • encouraging them to record their own ideas and responses
  • using writing to meet specific needs such as writing a letter or copying a recipe to take home
  • talking about their ideas and responses to books that have been shared
  • providing a variety of books
  • listening to their stories and encouraging them to listen to others’ stories.

There are many ways to develop these skills:

  • reading, e.g. signs, books, lists, name tags, birthday cards
  • writing, e.g. painting, drawing, using pens and pencils, felt-tips, crayons
  • listening, e.g. stories, games, conversation, music
  • speaking e.g. music, puppetry, pretend play, conversation, singing
  • baking and cooking e.g. recipes.

Providing for books and storytelling

A book area works well if the books are displayed so that the children can see the covers. Use carpet, chairs, beanbags and cushions to make the area cosy and comfortable. The group does not need to display every book they have – a small selection at a time allows children to share and discuss books with each other. Most opportunities for literacy are developed throughout the various areas of play.

Ideas for literacy equipment

  • a table set up as an office desk
  • a post office kit set up with paper, stamps, envelopes, pens, telephone books, a telephone
  • a computer
  • office accessories – memo cube, business cards
  • a variety of pens, paper, books.

Ideas for books

  • nature and science
  • nursery rhymes
  • traditional stories
  • stories from different cultures
  • poems
  • photo books
  • picture books
  • cardboard books
  • interactive books such as those that have flaps or make noises
  • songbooks
  • children’s own stories made into books
  • fantasy stories, and
  • true stories.

Māori culture in storytelling

Pūrākau: Māori stories

Māori traditions contain many stories that are suitable for children’s learning, for example, the feats of Maui: netting the sun to slow down its hasty progress across the sky; extinguishing the fires of Mahuika; fishing up the North Island, Te Ika a Maui.

Become familiar with these stories and use them as themes for collage and other types of children’s artwork.

These stories can also be used to explore concepts of Māoritanga such as tuakana/teina, whanaungatanga, manaakitanga, kotahitanga, rangatiratanga.

Pikitia: Māori posters

Visual representations of Māori traditions are important for children’s appreciation of the culture.

Posters and pictures of Māori art, traditions, people and places are widely available and suitable for children’s learning. It is also important that some of the pictures depict Māori in positive contemporary roles alongside more traditional images.

Ngā mahi toi: Māori art

This is another visual representation of Māori culture, but this time made up of whakairo (carvings), tukutuku (woven wall panels) and kowhaiwhai (geometric patterns).

They may be hung in the venue and used as discussion triggers with children. It is always important to have stories associated with the pieces of art, and these stories usually contain concepts that capture the imagination of children.

Te Whāriki

Reading, writing, listening and speaking support learning across all the strands of Te Whāriki. Sharing and creating stories about the things they know and do support children’s sense of belonging and values the experiences and knowledge they bring. Books and storytelling also provide great opportunities for children to talk about emotions. Children’s well-being grows when they feel listened to and valued. Books give children the chance to explore their world. In particular, children's developing literacy is supported in the Communication strand, which looks at children developing verbal and non-verbal communication skills, experiencing the stories and symbols of their own and other cultures, and finding ways of being creative and expressive.

This play idea has been developed for playgroups. Feel free to use it at other types of ECE service, but make sure you're still following the regulations and licensing criteria that apply to your service type. Parents may also find this information useful.

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