The earliest forms of storytelling were spoken. Storytellers recited stories from memory. They may also have used hand gestures and facial expressions.

Some of the oldest recorded stories were found by French children in the Pyrenees Mountains when they discovered drawings of extinct animals on the walls of a cave. These drawings, estimated to be 35,000 years old, are the oldest written stories. They are also the first known visual art.

In Australia, the native Aboriginal people painted symbols on cave walls to help storytellers remember their stories. They recited the stories using a combination of speaking, music, rock art and dance. Other items such as sand, leaves and tree carvings also helped them record the stories in pictures or writing.

Throughout history, all the way back to the earliest tales, common themes have emerged. No matter where the stories originated, many (if not most) are didactic stories, which means they include teachings or morals.

Didactic stories also help control, influence and inspire the people and cultures of developing societies. These moral stories teach that there are rewards in life for doing good things and punishments for doing bad things.

For example, in the popular children’s story “The Three Little Pigs,” two lazy pigs build houses of straw and twigs. They rush through the construction of their homes so they can do something fun with their time instead of working.

The third pig works hard building a sturdy brick house. When the Big Bad Wolf arrives, he blows down the lazy pigs’ straw and twig houses, but the brick house remains standing.

The moral of this story is that good things happen if you work hard in life. Can you think of morals you have learned from other popular stories?

Traditionally, stories have been memorized and passed from person to person through oral narratives. In modern-day cultures, however, our cultures have developed many other ways to share and learn about local, family and cultural histories.

Some of the modern mediums we use for storytelling today include television, movies, plays, the Internet — and our favorite — books!


Wonderopolis would like to wish you and your family a happy National Family Literacy Day!

November 1 is National Family Literacy Day. Around the country, communities are celebrating the wonders of literacy by planning special activities and events that showcase the importance of families learning together.

First held in 1994, this annual event is officially celebrated on November 1, but many communities host events throughout the entire month. Schools, libraries, literacy organizations, teachers, parents and kids participate in read-a-thons, book drives and more to celebrate the wonders of literacy.

Family literacy programs bring parents and children together to further their education and improve life skills. And we think that is wonderful!

How will your family celebrate National Family Literacy Day?


4 Join the Discussion

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  1. This is really interesting! By picking an item from the different categories to make a story, it also help to build creativity of our kids. Even the same items can make a different story every time.

    • We agree, Catherine! So many WONDERful stories are just waiting to be written! We think it’s FUN to WONDER and CREATE! Thanks for visiting Wonderopolis today and also for sharing your AWESOME comment with us! :-)

    • Sometimes bedtime stories have the power to lull you to sleep, Jeff! We love bedtime stories because they help us fall asleep with a WONDERful dream that’s already begun in our heads! We love hearing that you were a very ENERGETIC child– you probably had no trouble drifting off into dreamland! :)

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Have you ever wondered…

  • How did storytelling begin?
  • Why are stories passed from one generation to the next?
  • How can you become a great storyteller?

Wonder Gallery

shutterstock_2759836_bigVimeo Video

Try It Out

If your child has memorized the classic bedtime stories by heart, try this nightly adventure as a prelude to a dream world. Set aside 10 or 15 minutes each night before lights out and cast your little one as the main character of her very own bedtime story.

Here’s how to play: Choose four numbers between 1 and 10. Once you have selected all four of your numbers, find each one on the Elements List below. No peeking ahead of time!

The rules are very flexible. You can create and add your own characters, plot twists and elements — as long as your story also includes the elements from the list somehow.

For example, if you choose 1, 9, 10, 5, then your story must include each of these elements: a pirate, a car, a road trip early in the morning and the idea that someone has found or lost something.

Perhaps you’ll decide to write a memoir about a road trip with your family the year you lost a tooth while eating breakfast at a pirate-themed restaurant. Maybe you’ll create a work of fiction about a pirate who suffered seasickness so he had to travel by car early in the morning on an endless road trip in search of lost treasure.

The possibilities are as endless as your imagination. So close your eyes, count to 10… and discover a story waiting to be told. When you finish your masterpiece, be sure to send a copy to Wonderopolis. We want to read what you come up with!

Email your story to or send it to:

Wonderopolis HQ
325 West Main Street, Suite 300
Louisville, KY 40202-4237

Elements List


1. a pirate
2. a photographer
3. a farmer
4. a ballerina
5. an alien from outer space
6. a child
7. President of the United States
8. a dog
9. a circus performer
10. an athlete


1. at the White House
2. at a birthday party
3. lost in outer space
4. in a kitchen
5. at a shopping mall
6. on a pirate ship
7. at the doctor’s office
8. in a dark room
9. in a car
10. on a beach


1. 10 years in the future
2. after a fight
3. New Year’s Eve
4. on a birthday
5. after a blizzard
6. late at night
7. at the first Thanksgiving
8. during a tornado
9. the year your mom or dad was born
10. early in the morning on a road trip


1. an important decision needs to be made
2. a secret needs to be confessed to someone else
3. someone needs help
4. someone needs to save the world
5. someone has found or lost something
6. someone has accused someone else of doing something
7. an important message must be delivered
8. a discovery has just been made
9. something embarrassing has just happened
10. someone must reach an important goal



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Wonder What’s Next?

Enjoy celebrating National Family Literacy Day and then come back tomorrow for a wonder that’s sure to win your vote!

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