Story Exploring Program

Senior teacher helping elementary school pupil in class

Designed for use with children from birth through 11, the Story Exploring program uses more than 100 multicultural children’s books to build language, reading, and critical thinking skills. The program emphasizes targeted reading, writing, listening, and speaking activities to increase comprehension, foster problem solving, and nurture a love of books and reading. Story Exploring is used by individuals such as classroom teachers, reading specialists, teachers in childcare centers, and other educators who support literacy development for children aged birth through 11.

Program History

The Story Exploring program was developed and disseminated for more than 30 years by Motheread Inc., a North Carolina-based nonprofit organization combining literacy instruction with child development, adult empowerment, or employment skills. In 2019, Helping Education was asked to become the disseminator of Motheread Inc. programs, such as Story Exploring, Motheread/Fatheread, and others. Given the missions of both organizations to provide evidence-based educational programs and services to a wide range of youth and adult students (including a focus on supporting individuals from historically underserved and marginalized communities), Helps Ed Fund was honored to carry on the impactful work initiated by Motheread Inc. and ensure that the Story Exploring program continues to reach educators, parents, caregivers, and families throughout the United States.

Research Supporting Story Exploring

The Story Exploring program was developed based on dozens of research studies examining:

  • early literacy practices
  • shared and interactive storybook reading
  • child engagement and motivation in reading
  • fostering linkages between school, home, and a child’s literacy achievement
  • effective strategies for reading aloud to children
  • several other related areas of research

Specific studies have also found meaningful benefits of using Story Exploring. For example, as part of Literacy Invites and Nurtures Kids’ Success (LINKS) initiative, childcare teachers utilized Story Exploring to learn literacy concepts and effective teaching strategies to use in their classrooms and to involve parents in literacy activities at home. Dr. Bertha M. Gorham, then director of the Early Childhood and Family Support program at RTI International, conducted a follow-up study of the LINKS process and found that teachers who participated in the initiative improved their literacy practices in reading storybooks to preschoolers, regardless of the teacher’s race, previous education, or years of experience. In surveys after the LINKS programming ended, 97 percent of caregivers said they knew more about emergent literacy for the ages of children they served. The same percentage reported that they were using their new knowledge and skills.

In another study conducted by Dr. Jody Cleven, Story Exploring training and mentoring was provided for early childhood educators and analyses looked at the impact on their students’ receptive vocabulary, expressive vocabulary, and story retelling. Across the 121 four-year-old students in that study, analyses showed that students of teachers who learned Story Exploring meaningfully improved their expressive vocabulary and story retelling, and their improvements were significantly better than those of same-age students whose teacher did not learn the Story Exploring program.

Accessing the Story Exploring Materials

The Story Exploring materials include handbooks for four separate reading levels: 1) birth to two years, 2) preschool, 3) grades K-2, and 4) grades 3-5.

The lessons help adults ask open-ended questions and invite children to respond. Children learn vocabulary and how to interpret stories. Story Exploring uses props, games, songs, and other activities to make reading fun.

Accompanying each Story Exploring lesson is a take-home Story Extender that parents and caregivers can provide to children. Story Extenders are available in English and Spanish.

Unlike several other programs offered by Helping Education, the Story Exploring program materials are not accompanied by a step-by-step user’s guide. Therefore, consistent with the program’s history of dissemination, Story Exploring materials can only be accessed by attending a Story Exploring training. Please see the following section for more information.

Training for Story Exploring

Training in the Story Exploring program is provided for individuals such as classroom teachers, reading specialists, teachers in childcare centers, and other educators who support literacy development for children aged birth through 11.

The  Story Exploring training is designed to teach educators how to implement the Story Exploring program with children of various ages. Participants receive training materials, curriculum books with Story Exploring lessons,and a set of Story Extenders (in English and Spanish) that educators can provide for parents who are interested in extending Story Exploring lessons into the home.

Story Exploring has separate training and materials for four reading levels: 1) birth to two years, 2) preschool, 3) grades K-2, and 4) grades 3-5.

There are currently two options for training:

  • Option 1 is a six-hour training that informs educators how to use all four levels of Story Exploring.
  • Option 2 is a three-hour training covering either the first two or last two levels of Story Exploring.

Training participants can receive contact hours from the North Carolina Division of Child Development and Early Education.

Training Cost: TBA for Option 1 ( six-hour training covering Levels 1-4). TBA for Option 2 (three-hour training covering Levels 1-2 OR Levels 3-4.

For information about arranging a Story Exploring training, please contact: Gwen Hinton (Director of Adult, Family, and Community Empowerment Programs) at

Note that Helping Education continuously seeks outside funding in order to reduce or eliminate the participant training cost. Please contact Gwen Hinton at the above email if you are interested in arranging a Story Exploring training but have questions or concerns about the training costs.

Frequently Asked Questions About Story Exploring

Please contact us if you have any questions that are not answered on this page or you simply want to talk with one of our Story Exploring experts.