A teacher joyfully reads a sweet book to a group of children in a classroom.

Short and Sweet: The Joys of Story Collections

SLS UKPicture Books, Reading

Subject: Reading for Pleasure

Topic: Short Stories

Age Group: Y2-Y6

Synopsis: Short stories are a brilliant way to fill a few spare minutes, whilst also engaging with reluctant readers and exposing children to world stories. They can be excellent fun for the storyteller too says Laura The Librarian.

Laura Bennett
Tower Hamlets SLS

Librarian’s view:

I adore short stories. As part of my job I have the great pleasure of reading or outright telling stories to the kids in my various schools and I delight in retelling favourites to a new audience for the first time ,and then inevitably discovering that a handful of children want to know where they can read more.

This to me is the great beauty of short stories – literally everyone wants to try them. As middle grade fiction gets fatter and fatter (and thus more and more intimidating to reluctant or struggling readers), the world of the short story means these children can access high quality text, perfectly balanced and engaging stories without having to wrestle with an inch thick wodge of paper to get there.

They are also a spectacularly good way to fill in a spare 15 minutes. Teachers are always busy, and it’s often bemoaned that there’s no time for a proper story time anymore – why read the first chapter when you have no idea when you’ll get time to come back to the second? Short stories are the ideal solution. Not only can you fill that 15 minutes with a perfect beginning, middle and end, you also get the chance to sample some of the great stories of the world and broaden horizons a little.

However, finding good quality short stories can be problematic. Any librarian knows that as with picture books, just because a book is fantastic to read alone does not mean it translates well to reading to a whole class. Some older collections use language and phrasing that is not very accessible for today’s children (I’m looking at you, Brothers Grimm). Some include lovely illustrations that just don’t stand up to a whole class craning their necks and leaning on the kids in front to see. And finally, many other books are just best absorbed curled up on your own to enjoy in private.

Nevertheless, there are some collections that are perfectly primed for reading to an audience and I often encourage the kids borrowing them to read out loud too – after all, why should I have all the fun?


Girl, Goddesses and Giants
by Lari Don

My go-to storyteller, Lari Don knows how to write for an audience. Her stories in this book touch on lesser-known heroines from all round the world and ancient times. I am especially fond of “Mbango and the Whirlpool” and “Chi and the Seven-Headed Dragon”.

Clever Polly and the Stupid Wolf by Catherine Storr

This is the one I am asked for again and again and again. I’ve even had teaching assistants deliberately tag along to library sessions just to hear more of Polly and the Wolf and what better support for reading is there than that?

Tales from the Caribbean
by Trish Cooke

Kids love Anansi stories I’ve found and there are several in this book to choose from, alongside other stories taken from different islands. One class’s outrage at the treatment of a little bird in the story of The Special Pumpkin prompted a good five-minute discussion about the rights and wrongs of neighbour Madame Jalousie.

A Dollop of Ghee and a Pot of Wisdom by Chitra Soundar

Drawing on traditional stories from India, Chitra Soundar has created a brilliant two in one collection. As Prince Veera ponders the dilemmas his subjects bring him to resolve, natural breaks written into the stories give your class the chance to solve the problems themselves. Highly satisfying.