Anthony, A., Emans, E., & Ziegler, E. (1973). The effectiveness of creative dramatics and storytelling in a library setting. The Journal of Educational Research, 67(4), 161-162, 181.


This study examines the impact of library-based creative dramatics and storytelling programs on children’s interest in books, confidence in expressing ideas, self-image, and ability to empathize. The researchers divided the 298 participating fourth- and fifth-grade students into three groups. Each group received a different program: storytelling, creative dramatics, or library usage (as a control group). The study’s findings suggest that while neither storytelling nor creative dramatics affected children’s reading achievement or interest, both increased the children’s use of the library. Additionally, storytelling appears to have had a greater impact than creative dramatics or library usage on self-image, empathy, and creativity.

Key Findings:

The study found that:

  • There was no statistical difference between the three groups in interest in books and reading.
  • In one of the library branches that participated in the study, the storytelling group had a superior level of self-image compared with the creative dramatics and control groups.
  • Overall, the storytelling program had a greater impact on creativity than the other two programs, and the creative dramatics program had greater impact on creativity than the control condition (regular library usage).
  • Children in both the creative dramatics and storytelling groups had a greater use of library facilities.

Significance of the Findings:

This study suggests that attending story time or creative dramatics does not make students more interested in reading, but does have a positive impact on library use. The study provided some evidence that storytelling may have more influence than creative dramatics on creativity, self-image, and empathy.


This two-year-long study was conducted at nine different libraries in the Philadelphia area with fourth- and fifth-grade students selected by school and library personnel. Two hundred and ninety-eight students participated for a 28-week period each year. To control differences which might exist as a result of drawing samples from different socio economic neighborhoods, each library branch represented in the study had three groups of children: one in creative dramatics, one in storytelling, and one in library usage. Library usage served as a control group; creative dramatics and storytelling were experimental groups. Roughly 40 children were divided randomly into the three groups. The creative dramatics and storytelling groups participated in planned programs at each library branch. The library usage group used the library facilities but did not participate in either the story hour or the creative dramatics programs. Librarians served as storytellers and creative dramatic leaders. Children’s literature was the basis for both groups. A discussion followed every session. Five instruments were used to assess the students, which were administered by trained elementary school teachers. The instruments used were the Pupil Attitude Inventory, the Gates Reading Survey-Comprehension, Self-Concept Inventory, Torrance’s Creativity Tests, and the Personality Inventory.

Limitations of the Research:

It is unclear if the study used random selection of students, thus making it possible that teachers and librarians knew the students in advance. The participating students may already have been regular visitors to the library, or may already have had an interest in reading. The study took place within the Philadelphia public library system, thus limiting its generalizability to other public library systems with different demographics.

Questions to Guide New Research:

Do storytelling and creative dramatics have a greater impact on students’ interest in reading and books when they are at a younger age or are just learning to read themselves than at an older age? What may have changed in both education and library services since the 1970s (when this study was conducted) that could change or impact the results of this study?