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What is Dial-A-Story?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 23, 2024
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Dial-a-story is a service which allows people to call a phone a number, select a story from a given list, and hear the story read over the phone. A number of libraries offer this service to foster good relations with their patrons, with a rotating list of stories so that dial-a-story does not get boring. Libraries may pay a small fee to set the service up, or they can do the set up themselves, and it often proves to be a big hit with patrons.

The stories offered by a dial-a-story service vary from location to location. The service typically features a wide assortment of children's books, along with some short chapter books, which may be offered with a chapter a week to encourage people to call back. Some dial-a-story services also include poems and longer books. In all cases, they are primarily aimed at younger patrons, although people of all ages are of course welcome to call in.

For libraries, the service acts as a great form of patron outreach, creating positive emotions about the library and encouraging people to visit the library. Having a storyteller on demand can also be useful for parents, who may want their children to be stimulated and encouraged to read, but who also value a little bit of quiet time. Kids often really enjoy the service, especially once they are old enough to use dial-a-story on their own, as it sparks the imagination and fosters independence.

Storytelling is, after all, a very ancient practice among most human cultures, and many people remember having stories read to them by parents, teachers, and library staffers as children. Dial-a-story can be one way to satisfy a child with a seemingly insatiable hunger for new stories without leaving the house, and if children have the books read on the service at home, they can follow along. Dial-a-story can be especially valuable for children who lack enrichment at home, due to a variety of circumstances.

Your local library may offer a dial-a-story service; you can call up and ask, or check their website. If the library doesn't offer the service, staffers might consider it if you make a request. To offset the costs of setting up the service, you could offer to help organize a fundraiser or appeal for donations to encourage people to get involved with the library. You may want to point out that setting up the dial-a-story service could generate goodwill in the community and interest in the library among patrons who are not currently being reached.

Language & Humanities is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a Language & Humanities researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By backdraft — On May 19, 2012

Our public library offers a dial a story service for children. It is run by one of the children's librarians who also does the story times at the library.

She always picks great books and she knows how to pick stories that kids will like even when they can't see the pictures. I have been able to keep my daughters calm and entertained on several occasions because I called in to the dial a story service.

By tigers88 — On May 18, 2012

A guy in my town used to offer his own dial a story service. He would put up flyers and bulletins all over town advertising the number to call in to. When you called it would go straight to a recording of him reading a story he liked.

Most of them were pretty short, some less than a minute. But he made a real effort to read them like a professional reader, changing up the voices for each character and reading in an evocative way. He had a real knack for it.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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