The Science of Stories


What is the best thing about making Storytime? It is definitely sharing our favourite tales with our wonderful readers. (That’s you!)


We humans have been telling stories for many thousands of years – our ancestors were almost certainly doing this before the dawn of civilization. You might even call humans ‘the storytelling species’!


We love stories. You do too, we suspect! But have you thought about why stories are so engaging?


Scientists have been researching how our brains engage with stories and have made some fascinating discoveries! If you needed more reasons to read more stories, then these facts below might convince you for once and all that stories are the BEST way to teach and learn, having fun along the way.


1. Our brains are stimulated by stories!

Researchers can scan the brains of test subjects to see which parts activate when doing different activities. When people were given lists of facts, two parts of the brain lit up: the language processing and language comprehension centres.


But what happens when they read a story instead? Five sections of the brain lit up: the language processing and language comprehension centres, the motor cortex (the part of the brain that plans for and executes movement), the amygdala (which deals with emotions) and the visual cortex (which processes visual information).


This is because when we read a story we feel physically engaged with it (think of when you felt tense when reading a scary tale, for example), we also empathise with the characters and experience their emotions at second hand, and finally we can visualise the scenes and characters described in it.


This helps to explain why we find stories so engrossing – reading them stimulates large parts of our wonderful brains!


2. These experiences help us learn!

Because so many parts of our brains are activated when reading stories, we absorb and retain information from them more effectively than when we learn in other ways. But how much more effectively?


Twice as well? Ten times as well?


Research indicates that we actually retain information from stories up to twenty-two times better, compared to a basic listing of facts. When we read stories, our brains soak up information and make connections without even realising it and therefore it’s more likely they will stay with us for longer.


The Awesome Adventures tales in Storytime were created with this principle in mind. Rather than presenting dry facts about famous people, we chose to share cool stories from their lives that will hopefully captivate readers and connect them with the characters. It’s no coincidence that it is a very popular section where you can learn while having fun.


3. We develop relationships with characters and that makes us happier!

Have you ever felt a close bond with characters in a really involving story? Believe it or not, there is a scientific reason for that! When we read a story, our brain can release a chemical called oxytocin. This is a bonding hormone that causes us to care about the people in our lives.


Oxytocin can be responsible for making people feel as if they relate to fictional characters. When this happens, we feel more invested in stories and internalise what it is trying to communicate with us. The feel-good factor of stories is no coincidence, it also helps us to feel like we belong.


4. Stories are powerful because they combine entertainment and education

Reading stories is a fantastic form of entertainment, engaging many parts of our brains and connecting with our emotions. But this also makes them powerful tools for learning – when we are emotionally connected with what we are reading, we absorb information more effectively.


Think back to our ancient ancestors, trading tales around the campfire. They told stories to entertain and bond with other members of their group, but also to pass along knowledge and wisdom in a highly effective way. Through history there are many examples where stories were used to protect us from danger, to guide us through challenging times.


Stories unite us all, and that is the ultimate power. But having science to show us how much power makes us more determined than ever to keep sharing stories far and wide.


Here at Storytime, we like to think that we are continuing a tradition and also bringing it to new audiences. Stories provide entertainment, escapism and education… all at the same time. And the learnings we share through them won’t ever be forgotten.