How To Do Bedtime Stories

how to do bedtime stories, kids magazine subscriptions, storytime magazine, kids magazine subscriptions, best bedtime storiesAnyone who follows Storytime will know that our magazine is built on a deep love of bedtime stories. If there’s one thing our whole team treasures, it’s the memory of bedtime stories as a child. Back then, bedtime stories were a pleasant indulgence – a bit of together time at the end of a busy day. But now, there’s compelling evidence that bedtime stories are hugely beneficial to your children on many levels (see below), but how to do bedtime stories like a pro?

You’ll be surprised by how often we get asked for advice by our readers and parents who are unsure about how to do bedtime stories successfully. Read on for our advice on the when, why, what and how of bedtime stories.

1. When Should I Start Reading Bedtime Stories To My Child?

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Illustration from Storytime Issue 3, Bedtime in Summer, by Amber Cassidy.

Truthfully, it’s never too early to start reading to your child. In fact, the sooner the better. It’s thought that reading to your child from an early age can help them to develop sound recognition, which in turn helps to boost language skills and broaden your child’s vocabulary. And the earlier you start doing it, the more likely it is your child will think of reading as a positive and enjoyable experience. Plus, reading bedtime stories is a great way to bond with your baby.

If your baby is sitting on your lap, begin with board, fabric and sturdy picture books with bold, high-contrast images, mirrors and textures. Newborns will appreciate being close to you and hearing your voice; by six months, they’re a bit more interactive and can make out the shapes, colours and faces in books; by 12 months, they’re touching books, putting them in their mouths and following your finger as you point out pictures.

If you’re reading to a newborn or a baby in a cot (i.e. a baby that won’t grab and tear), you can pretty much read anything you think is appropriate, even bits of your favourite books from childhood. Just hearing you read bedtime stories is a positive thing.

2. When Is The Best Time To Read Bedtime Stories?

We’ve talked before about the importance of timing when it comes to reading bedtime stories, but the best guide of all is your own child. If they’re exhausted after bath-time and can barely keep their eyes open once they’re in pyjamas, it’s not wise to keep them awake any longer with a bedtime story.

Remember: one of the key benefits of a bedtime story (apart from sharing quality time together and all the developmental bonuses it brings) is to ease your child into a relaxed and happy state before drifting off to sleep. You need to share bedtime stories when you’re child is receptive enough to enjoy them. That could be before bath-time, before pyjamas, after pyjamas, in your special ‘story chair’ or tucked up in bed – only you can truly judge it. And, if you’re not sure, the best advice is to keep trying until you find a time that works for everyone. The main thing is that you commit to doing that.

3. How Many Bedtime Stories Should I Read?

This largely depends on the age of your children – and experts often look at the length of time you read, rather than the number of books. In the UK, the reading charity Booktrust recommends that you aim for 10 minutes of reading every day. In the USA, it’s a minimum of 15 minutes. We say, aim for 10 minutes when your children are very little and gradually increase the time as they get older, aiming for 20 to 30 minutes.

This could equate to one picture book or short story initially, increasing to two or three when they’re a bit older, or a chapter of a book for older children (two or three chapters if it’s an early reader book with lots of pictures). As your children get older, be sure to bring forward your bedtime story slot, so you can fit it in. And keep an eye on the time – it’s easy to keep going or re-reading the same book over and over again when you’re both loving it. It’s great to do this every now and again, but not if it leads to kids associating bedtime stories with sleep deprivation. If you’re really having fun, slot in extra reading sessions earlier in the day or at the weekend. You don’t have to make bedtime stories a mammoth reading session.

4. How Do I Read Bedtime Stories?

With enthusiasm, with pleasure and, most importantly, with everything that makes you who you are. The key to how to do bedtime stories is to be yourself, even if that means stumbling and tripping over words and avoiding silly voices. You’re not a Hollywood actor; you’re a parent. Read our 5 top tips for reading stories for more advice.

5. What Are The Best Bedtime Stories?

In an ideal world, the best bedtime stories are the ones you both enjoy, but you’ll inevitably find that your child falls in love with a book or story you can’t stand. The best advice here is to grin and bear it – and try to see it from your child’s point of view. Try to understand what it is about the story they love so much. If you can work it out, you might eventually be able to lead them to another similar book or story that doesn’t drive you quite as mad.

The best bedtime stories for children tend to have the following themes:

  • They’re funny or downright silly.
  • They feature fears, problems or subjects children can relate to, such as being scared of monsters under the bed, learning to share, being brave, being naughty, starting school, or even disliking vegetables.
  • They star favourite characters, like pirates, dinosaurs and animals.
  • They allow kids to explore imaginary places or other worlds, such as outer space or under the sea.
  • They’re tried and trusted classics, like fairy tales.

That’s not a comprehensive list, by any means, but it’s a good starting point if you’re stuck and looking for good bedtime stories. You can get recommendations for specific titles over at LoveReading4Kids, sorted by age group.

In Storytime, we try to have several of the above in every issue, of course!

6. What Age Should I Stop Reading Bedtime Stories?

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You’re never too old for bedtime stories. Cupid and Psyche artwork for Storytime Issue 17 by Myrtille.

We once attended a talk with children’s author Frank Cottrell Boyce, who claimed that he was still reading stories to his teenage son. That just about sums it up. There’s no cut-off point for reading to your child. No damage can be done by reading to them after a certain age, though there is evidence that stopping too early might have an adverse effect on children’s literacy levels.

As long as your child enjoys it, there’s no reason to stop, and the longer you carry on reading bedtime stories, the more reading tips and strategies they’ll pick up from you. By doing nothing more than reading, you’re teaching them about tone, expression, creating tension, pronunciation, and sharing new words. They’re learning without trying. As they become more competent readers, you can even alternate reading chapters to each other. And, as they get older still, you can introduce them to more challenging texts to really stretch them. What’s more, you can use your bedtime stories as a springboard for all kinds of discussions or activities beyond the book or story. Read for as long as you can and enjoy it.

7. Why Are Bedtime Stories Important?

Bedtime stories are crucial for all of the reasons listed above, but we’ll give you a quick summary of their key benefits. Here are 12 reasons why bedtime stories are important:

  1. They give you a uniquely special ‘together time’ as a family.
  2. They leave your children with happy childhood memories.
  3. They help develop early language skills.
  4. They boost vocabulary at all age levels.
  5. They improve literacy rates in children.
  6. They help kids fall in love with reading – something that lasts a lifetime.
  7. They expand minds and horizons, and explore difference.
  8. They promote imaginative thinking and creativity.
  9. They teach children positive values.
  10. They give children characters or situations they can relate to and learn from.
  11. They foster a greater understanding of the world and other people’s needs.
  12. They bring happiness and laughter.

We’re sure you can think of many more reasons to add to this list.


We hope we’ve answered your questions and have given you a thorough guide to how to do bedtime stories. There are few things in the world that give so many positive benefits, but take so little effort and are so enjoyable to do.

If you’re tackling bedtime stories for the first time, we’d love to hear how you’re getting on – and if you have any more questions, let us know and we can try to share more tips here. Share them with me on Twitter or Facebook – always happy to hear from you!


Best of luck with the bedtime routine!


stories for kids

(Storytime Ed.)

Inspiring Courage in Kids

kids magazine subscriptions, magazine subscriptions for kids, courage in kids, emperor's new clothesOne of the reasons we place so much value on stories at Storytime is because they inspire so many important and positive reactions in children – curiosity, wonder, inspiration, understanding, empathy and courage. These last two are so crucial right now.

The Most Courageous Kid of All

The Emperor’s New Clothes in our latest issue, Storytime 30, is a brilliant story for inspiring courage in kids, because the real star of the story is not the vain and proud emperor, or the pandering fools around him, or even the tricksters who better him, it’s the small boy in the crowd who’s the only person brave enough to stand up and say, “But he hasn’t got anything on!”

In this case, courage isn’t about wielding a sword and slaying dragons, it’s about having the heart and the nerve to stand up and say what you truly believe in when everyone around you is saying the opposite thing. In The Emperor’s New Clothes, only a child is bold enough to point out the glaringly obvious and embarrassing truth.

This child is probably my favourite in all of the fairy tales we’ve featured so far and, I think, he’s a character that kids can readily identify with. Perhaps adults too – wouldn’t we all like to think we’d be this child in the same situation? (Wait… aren’t we in a similar situation right now?)

Tact and good manners are all well and good, but I often wonder whether they’re sometimes at the cost of honesty and courage.

Questions of Courage

I think it’s a pity the child is such a minor character in the story and he’s definitely worth exploring some more. Here are some questions you could consider with your child:

  • Why do you think the boy said what he did?
  • Do you think he was right to say it?
  • What happened to the boy after the emperor’s parade?
  • What did he become when he grew up?

You could even write your own stories about his adventures – and give him a name. He deserves a name.

More Courageous Kids

And while we’re on the subject of courage, here are some more gutsy kids who can teach us some lessons in fearlessness.


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Gerda is undeterred by the icy Snow Queen. Art by Valeria doCampo.

1. Gerda in The Snow Queen This little girl sets off on her own, undertakes an epic journey, overcomes a brutal band of robbers and remains undaunted by the icy Snow Queen – all to save her best friend. An inspiration. (Storytime Issue 4)

2. Alice in Wonderland In a surreal and sometimes threatening new world, Alice gives the ridiculous and the unjust short shrift and says what she thinks. (Storytime Issue 1)

3. Hansel and Gretel Hansel has the audacity to trick the cannibalistic witch with a skinny chicken bone when she comes to see how well he’s fattening up, and Gretel gives the witch the big heave-ho into the oven. (Storytime issue 13)

4. The girl in Baba Yaga We named her Irina in Storytime. When Irina’s brother is abducted by Baba Yaga’s black geese, she goes on a mission to save him from Baba Yaga’s scary hut, which stands on chicken legs in the middle of the deep, dark forest. (Storytime Issue 26)


All of these stories are good examples of plucky and daring characters who might, in turn, inspire self-belief and courage in kids. Attributes definitely worth having at the moment. And there are many, many more amazing courageous kids in books, so perhaps the most heroic thing you could do this week is take a trip of the library…

Which courageous literary characters inspired you as a child? Let me know, I’d love to hear from you over on Twitter or Facebook. Hope you like the art for The Emperor’s New Clothes – top of page – it’s by the talented Tel Coelho.

Until next time,


stories for kids

(Storytime Ed.)


Storytime Issue 30 – Out Now!

Storytime Issue 30 Out Now, best bedtime stories for kids, magazine subscriptions for kidsLook what’s just dropped anchor! Our all-new Storytime Issue 30, with a brand new story section, Tales from Today! Read more about it below.

I always put in links to the portfolios of all the illustrators we’ve collaborated with, so please do take a look at their work. We’re passionate about working with and supporting illustrators globally – as well as new writers.

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Alfie the Pirate sets sail in Storytime Issue 30. Art by Jen Taylor.

If you’re interested in contributing to our Tales from Today section, you can find out more about it here. Our first Tale from Today is Alfie the Pirate – the story of a young boy, a secret treasure map and a pesky arch-enemy. It’s illustrated by Jen Taylor and we love the artwork!

Our Famous Fable, The Goat and the Fox inspired a very well-known phrase. You’ll need to get the issue to find out what it is! Check out the wonderful illustrations by Bruno Nunes, who also illustrated Anansi the Spider for us in Storytime Issue 4.

The Indian tale, King Dirty Feet, was a joy to work on and I hope you have fun reading it. It’s inspired by a poem by Nobel prize winning writer Rabrindanath Tagore and has been vibrantly brought to life for Storytime Issue 30 by the illustration team Lá Studio.

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Brown bear dines with the bandicoots in Alphabet Zoo. Art by Tim Budgen.

Our new poetry series, Alphabet Zoo, returns with animals beginning with the letter B. This time, readers can learn about the beaver, brown bear, boa constrictor, baboon and bandicoot. And don’t forget to download our free Factsheet and activity pack too. Illustrations come courtesy of Tim Budgen once more, who will be working with us on the whole series.

Our second poem in the issue, The Little Kite by Katherine Pyle has a powerful message of perservance and self-belief, delivered in a charming way, and illustrated just as sweetly by Lim Zhi Lin.

We’re so happy to include another great Hans Christian Andersen tale, The Emperor’s New Clothes, which just sparkles with wit, cheeky humour and wisdom. A tale for our times. It also features Storytime’s first bottom, which should delight and fascinate plenty of young readers. Bare bums aside, it’s a great fairy tale and Tel Coelho‘s illustrations are just perfect. (Tel also illustrated our Tortoise and the Geese fable in Storytime Issue 10)

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Our version of the Greek myth Pygmalion, with art by Carmel Ben Ami.

In a little nod to Valentine’s Day, we’ve got our version of the Greek myth Pygmalion, which you might know better as My Fair Lady. We’ve called it The Statue that Came to Life and it comes with extraordinary comic-style illustrations by Carmel Ben Ami.

Finally, fairy fans will treasure our Welsh folk tale, Elidor and the Golden Ball, about a boy who skips school and finds himself in Fairyland playing the best game of football he’s ever had! Nina de Polonia has illustrated it and added some gorgeous details. She’s no stranger to folk tales, having illustrated Lazy Jack for Storytime Issue 9.

Plus, of course, there’s all the usual activity ideas, puzzles, drawing, a pirate adventure game, two brilliant book recommendations and our monthly competition.

We’re really proud of this new issue*, excited by our new contemporary story section and pleased to be committing to two poems in the magazine too. As ever, we hope it gives you many brilliant bedtime stories together. I’m always happy to hear from you, so do drop me a line on Twitter or Facebook with any comments or questions.

Happy days!


stories for kids

(Storytime Ed.)


* Apart from the small typo I spotted but, you know, to err is to be human, so please be divine and forgive me.

Brilliant Books – A Happy Ending

brilliant books, new stories for kids, storytime magazine, magazine subscriptions for kids, kids magazine subscriptions, the reluctant dragon, kenneth grahameNew year, new beginnings, and it’s out with the old and in with fun new stories for kids in Storytime Issue 29. Yes, our latest issue marks the end of an era for our Brilliant Books section which, in this issue, features the wonderful The Beginning of the Armadillos by Rudyard Kipling. Here’s why and what it’s being replaced with…

Brilliant Books Make Brilliant Readers

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Alice in Wonderland remains one of our marketing director Les’s favourites. Art by Mirdinara.

Since we launched in September 2014, Brilliant Books has been our place to celebrate literary classics. Over 29 issues, we’ve featured 29 beautifully illustrated extracts from some of the most famous children’s books ever written, including Alice in Wonderland, The Wizard of Oz, Treasure Island, and many more. Our mission was to leave children with a desire to read more. A need to see what happened next. And our readers tell us it worked, with many trips to bookshops and libraries as a result of reading our Brilliant Books extracts. That delights us.

The Great Book Battle

Though it has been a real pleasure and passion of ours to revisit these texts and breathe new life into them, for every classic children’s book we’ve managed to use or get the rights for, there have been so many more that have got away due to extremely complex rights situations and concerns about giving older books a new lease of life with new illustrations. In some cases, a year on, there’s still no decision from rights holders.

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One of art director Lu’s favourites from Storytime Issue 10, The Secret Garden, illustrated by Felicita Sala.

Frustrating and what a missed opportunity to share great work with a new readership… to let classics live on! To all our readers who’ve wondered why we haven’t featured a particular book, this is why. And, sadly, it’s the main reason we’re waving goodbye to Brilliant Books. We’d rather that than share not-so-brilliant books with you. We hope you understand.

Goodbye Classic, Hello Contemporary

But with every ending, there’s an opportunity for a new and exciting beginning, and there is much to look forward to. For a start, every Storytime issue from now on will feature two poems – our regular Alphabet Zoo poetry series, plus another rhyme or poem to enjoy.

But most exciting of all is the introduction of an entirely new content section called Tales from Today. As lovely as it is to celebrate old classics, we’ve always wanted to champion new writing too. The bulk of our content reworks traditional tales, so stories with contemporary settings and characters have been long overdue. This is no longer the case. Coming your way from Storytime Issue 30, we’ve got fresh stories with fresh illustrations from new writers – some previously published, some never published before. And they’re great!

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A sneak peek at a new Tales from Today with a disco croc! More on that soon…

So, while I’m a little sad to see Brilliant Books go (mostly sad that I couldn’t get the rights for some books I really wanted to feature), I think our Tales from Today section more than makes up for it. Hence the happy ending.

We have some real treasures on the horizon, including robots, superheroes, pirates, leopards, and kids being imaginative, inventive, brave and downright awesome, all with the creative and wonderful illustrations we hold so dear at Storytime.

So, a lot of great adventures to look forward to in our upcoming issues. I hope you enjoy it. In the meantime, at the top of this article, enjoy a pic from one of my Brilliant Books favourites, Kenneth Grahame’s The Reluctant Dragon (illustrated by Melanie Matthews). I could never pick an outright winner, too many good books in the world for that, but it’s pretty hard to beat a poetry-writing dragon.


See you soon story lovers,


stories for kids

(Storytime Ed.)

Top Tips for Short Story Writers

Tips for short story writers, kids magazine subscriptions, storytime magazineStorytime magazine has been open for story submissions since last September and, as a result, I’ve read hundreds of short stories crafted by writers around the world.

Over the last five months, I’ve got a much clearer idea of what works for Storytime and I’ve been jotting down tips and advice for short story writers as I go along. If you would like to get your children’s stories published, then I humbly offer these beginner’s tips in the hope that they will help you. Read on!

The Story So Far

I’ll start by sharing what we’ve got coming up in Storytime in 2017 so far. I can’t give too much away, so here’s a precis for each of our successful submissions:


  • A boy pirate with an unexpected rival hunts for treasure
  • A crocodile finds itself in a predicament
  • A family takes a trip to Mars
  • A leopard loses something important
  • A superhero visits an unusual setting
  • A child wears a unique fancy dress costume to school
  • A cow reveals a hidden talent
  • An unusual teacher has a special piece of equipment

Common Story Themes

So what do these eight stories have in common? I found five themes:

    1. All of the stories have silliness, humour or wit, sometimes warm and gentle wit. They made us laugh or smile.

    2. Five of the stories feature friendship and kindness.

    3. Four of the stories celebrate childhood imagination and creativity.

    4. Three of the stories feature surprises or follow an unexpected path.

    5. All of the stories feature characters, setting descriptions or scenes that I instantly knew would look great in illustrations.

Of course, we don’t want every story we ever publish to have all of the themes above, but I do believe that humour in stories has enduring appeal for children and plays an important role in keeping kids engaged and reading for pleasure. And stories that children can personally relate to (because they act and imagine or feel and behave exactly the same way as the character in the story) have real value too.

So taking the above story types and themes into account and bearing in mind the many submissions I’ve read in recent months, here are some Dos and Don’ts for hopeful Storytime contributors.

8 Top Tips for Short Story Writers


1. Do think visually. You don’t have to be an illustrator to do this. When you’re writing your story, creating its characters and planning the ‘action’ scenes, you will naturally work out and express what it looks like in your writing, so considering how or whether that will work as illustrations in Storytime magazine isn’t a huge leap. An example: we got a story about a baby animal desperate to grow up and be like its father, a stallion. It was told from the perspective of the baby and featured amusing scenes with the baby attempting (but failing) to be taller, which would have looked great. It was well written and I could sense an interesting ending was coming. The baby animal was a kitten – it would never grow up to be a big horse. A lovely idea, but it would have been incredibly hard for us to illustrate several pages of fun attempts to be taller without ruining the big reveal at the end. It was a nice story that we simply couldn’t work with. Another quick point on this subject – don’t litter your writing with visual pointers and directions for illustrations. It makes it impossible to read, and we’re happy to discuss this at a later date with you.

2. Do think like a child. Sure, stories can teach valuable lessons and grown-up wisdoms, but they can also speak directly to kids about their experiences – the stuff that makes them frightened or nervous or annoyed or happy or excited. The stuff that makes them tick. There’s no better way to learn this than to spend time with kids and be a big kid yourself. One of the stories we’re publishing next year was written by a dad for his son’s bedtime story and was inspired by his son.

3. Do write a proper story with a proper ending. Quite a few of the stories we get in aren’t fully rounded. Either nothing actually happens or they fizzle out. A short story, like any story, demands a beginning, a middle and an end. Something interesting, challenging or exciting needs to happen to the characters and there needs to be a resolution. 500 to 750 words might seem a challenge, but by writing a captivating story of this length, you are doing a great service to tired parents and children everywhere – you’re giving them a bedtime story they can make time for.

4. Do pay attention to the guidelines. Sorry, but I can’t read stories below 500 words, over 750 words, written in verse, or with illustrations or photographs, because it’s just not what we’re looking for.

5. Don’t be too local. We publish in the UK, but we have subscribers all over the world, therefore, we do our best to feel global. Some of the stories we get in from US writers, for example, are so exclusively American in their references, particularly to food, activities and sport, that they just wouldn’t work for readers outside the US. For a truly great story, I will always try to get around it, but it’s best to think globally in the first place.

6. Don’t be too schmaltzy. Family, friendship and kindness are all subjects that work for children and we welcome them in Storytime magazine, but we do prefer warm-hearted content of this nature to be delivered in way that isn’t excessively saccharine or sentimental, otherwise it can feel a little condescending to children – and to parents too. Tempering emotion with a bit of light humour or raw honesty can help.

7. Don’t end with a dream. I’ve put this in purely because we’ve had so many “and it had all been a dream!” endings in our submissions. To the reader, that feels like being cheated. Dreams are great sources of inspiration, but shouldn’t be used as an excuse for an exciting or surreal setting. Perhaps that stopped being a great idea after Lewis Carroll nailed it.

8. Don’t be different for the sake of it. We often get stories in where animals have a wacky colour or characters have a quirky, over-the-top name – and that difference bears no relation to the rest of the story. Often, it isn’t mentioned again beyond the first sentence or title of the story and it doesn’t add to the story in any way. If you’re going to give your character an interesting, unique quality or name, think about why you’re doing it and what that can bring to your story. Is it a source of conflict, confusion, humour, emotion? Does it form the basis of your story, drive it along or tell us something about the character’s personality? If not, why bother?


Oh, and one more, please don’t ever be sexist, racist or any other outdated -ist in your stories. It’s important to us at Storytime that all humans are treated with respect, fairness and equality. Read about how we feel about diversity here.

Some of these tips might seem obvious, but I’m writing them in direct response to the submissions we’ve had to date. As more submissions flow in and I research more and more previously published short stories for children, I’m building a clearer picture of how the art of short story writing works – and it is an art.

In time, I hope to put together some more specific, constructive and helpful guidelines with more insights and examples of what works and why (and what doesn’t work so well). In the meantime, I hope that these 8 tips for short story writers can offer some guidance.

Do remember, though, that every magazine is different. Every publisher has its own unique requirements and every editor has his or her own taste. I can’t speak for the publishing world as a whole but, for now, I know what works for Storytime.

If you’d like to submit a story, do read the guidelines here! And do read Storytime – it’s the only way you’ll ever truly understand what we’re about. I wish you the very best of luck – enjoy the process and keep at it!


Very best wishes,


stories for kids

(Storytime Ed.)

Diversity in Stories

Storytime29_Diversity in StoriesIn 2016, the campaign for diversity in stories and publishing was at the fore – and it seemed (to me at least) to be a rallying cry for diversity at all levels. Not just in the stories we tell and how they are illustrated, but in the people who produce them.

Since we launched Storytime we have been trying to do our own small part to support diversity (otherwise known as the real world… normality?) in stories wherever we can. Here are some of the things we’ve been doing and things we’re still working at:


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A Maui story from New Zealand, illustrated by Alexandra Huard.

  • Using illustrators from all over the world. In the last few issues, we have worked with illustrators from the UK, Serbia, Argentina, Spain, Mexico, Italy, Vietnam, Russia, Brazil, Colombia – and so many more. The most important thing to us is that an illustrator is the right person to help us bring a particular story to life. We would never choose or reject an illustrator because of their ethnicity, appearance, gender, religious beliefs, sexuality or disability. Only talent, style and skill are relevant.

  • Including an Around the World Tale in every issue. We’ve featured stories from far-flung places and varied cultures, from distant shores and more familiar destinations. We’ve packed our bags and armchair-travelled to Morocco, New Zealand, Siberia, India, Korea, West Africa, Nepal, the Caribbean, Malaysia, Patagonia… so many adventures!
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    Wolf Lullaby – a tale from the Caribbean, with art by Emily Monjaraz.

    Some of these stories feature animals, some feature people, some explore cultural likenesses and differences, and most demonstrate how universal wisdom, kindness, wit and humour can be. And they show what a small planet we really live on. We’ll keep on featuring global stories illustrated with diverse characters because, aside from being a great way to support diversity in stories, the tales themselves deserve to be shared. This is what Storytime is all about.


  • Endeavouring to make diverse characters the norm. This is something we’ve tried to do from the start and, I’ll be honest, we need to work on some more. As much of our magazine is taken up with old folk tales and fairy tales of Western European origin, it’s often the default setting to make the characters look Western European (circa 1700) too. When the DNA of a story is old Celtic, for instance, it’s hard to argue with that. We want to be true to the origin and history of the stories, but we want to show more diversity too. It’s a challenge.
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    Our Jack Frost poem in Storytime Issue 28. With art by David Pavon.

    To create more balance across a magazine, we make sure that characters of diverse racial backgrounds star in our poems and stories where the origin isn’t so specific (as well as in our World Tales). We also try to be diverse in subtle ways. Why can’t some of the fairies in this scene be black or Asian? Why does this little girl have to be Caucasian? We’ll keep asking these kinds of questions (and not just in relation to skin colour) and challenging ourselves with every issue. And we promise we’ll endeavour to ensure there is more diversity in our stories.When we created our new Alphabet Zoo poetry series (in Storytime Issue 29), we wanted one of the children who owns the zoo – Boo – to have a wheelchair. Why? Why not? Child readers don’t tend to question that kind of thing, so why should we?


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    A Moroccan storyteller and the star of Gazelle Girl. Art by Marine Gosselin.

  • Improving the gender balance. I’ve talked about this before, but we’ve been on a subtle mission to sort out this ridiculous gender in stories thing since day one. You might wonder what I mean, but if you’d researched and read as many stories as I have, you’d get it. In a nutshell, females rarely exist in old stories and when they do, they’re often nags, hags, whimpering princesses, evil stepmothers, jealous stepsisters, helpless mothers or conniving queens. Men generally get a better deal, but don’t get away with it completely, often cast as the simpleton or put-upon husband. And it must be so exhausting to have to be the hero all the time. I won’t completely rewrite classics, as I know it’s not what our readers want, but I do make changes where I can. I’ll make the princess a little less nauseating and more independent or less defined by her appearance. I’ll make the simpleton less stupid or help his character to grow. I’ll have daddy bear make the porridge instead of mummy, ask for a boy to be shown playing with a doll, and I’ll make strong animal characters female instead of male (they’re so often male) and a caring, nurturing animal character male (which rarely happens in the originals). I don’t do it for every story, just where it’s needed most. It’s a stealth approach to challenging stereotypes and we’ll keep at it.

So diversity in stories. We’re trying hard and we can try even harder. For a start, we need to feature more diverse books in our book recommendations. We’ll do this because it matters. It’s important that people of all backgrounds, cultures, beliefs and abilities see themselves represented in the media. It makes us a better, more understanding and compassionate world, don’t you agree?

I hope the cry for diversity is as loud, if not even louder, in 2017.

Best wishes to you whoever and wherever you are,


stories for kids

(Storytime Ed.)

New Storytime, New Stories!

kids magazine subscriptions, magazine subscriptions for kids, new stories, alphabet zoo, enormous turnipOur first issue of the year – Storytime Issue 29 – is out now and we hope that it will brighten up your winter. It’s an issue of firsts and lasts, so for that reason, we’re a wee bit giddy with excitement. New year, new Storytime Issue 29, new stories!

First, a first! Storytime Issue 29 marks the beginning of our first ever poetry series, Alphabet Zoo. Every month, Bonnie and Boo invite you to join them on a trip around their grandpa’s special zoo – and each trip focuses on animals beginning with a specific letter of the alphabet.

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Singing alligators in our first Alphabet Zoo poem. Art by Tim Budgen.

Issue 29 kicks off with animals beginning with the letter A and includes funny aardvarks, laid-back armadillos, singing alligators and happy alpacas! Every poem is packed with interesting animal facts, so it’s educational too. Plus we have a free Alphabet Zoo Factsheet and activity pack to download! Our zoo poem is illustrated by one of our favourite collaborators, Tim Budgen, whose wonderful work you might recognise from our poem Animal Fair from Storytime Issue 11. We hope you enjoy it!

This month’s legend marks a second outing in Storytime for Irish folk hero Finn MacCool in the classic tale, The Salmon of Knowledge. (MacCool first appeared in Storytime Issue 7, accidentally creating the Giant’s Causeway). This issue’s story is illustrated with great humour by cartoonist Fermin Solis.

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A gorgeous elephant for this issue’s fable, illustrated by Pablo Olivero.

Our wacky folk tale will be new to a lot of you. King Duck is the story of a little duck with big brains, a large fortune, a strong stomach and a king who owes him money! The vibrant and colourful art for this comes courtesy of an extraordinarily diverse illustrator, Tihomir Celanovic.

In this issue, we also have a heart-warming Buddhist fable about the value of true friendship. The Elephant and the Dog features not-to-be-missed illustrations from Pablo Olivero.

Our fairy tale is that early years classic The Enormous Turnip – a truly great read-aloud, which withstands many re-reads. Our gorgeous illustrations are by Paco Sordo, who previously illustrated the Italian folk tale A Feast of Cobwebs in Storytime Issue 24. School subscribers will receive our lesson ideas and resource pack to use with this story.

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The magical Betushka dancing with the Wood Fairy. Art by Teresa Martinez.

Our Around the World Tale comes from the Czech Republic. Betushka and the Wood Fairy features dancing, a bird orchestra and magic – and is brought to life with whimsical illustrations by Teresa Martinez. (Teresa also illustrated The Queen of Winter for Storytime Issue 15).

And our first issue of the year concludes with the barmy but brilliant The Beginning of the Armadillos by Rudyard Kipling, from his Just So Stories. No extract this time – we’re treating you to a whole story again with rich and vivid illustrations by Fabiana Faiallo.

And now the last… This will be our last Brilliant Books strand for the time being. Don’t panic – we still think books are brilliant! We’ll tell you more about why it’s being replaced and what with in a separate blog post soon! In the meantime, we hope Storytime brings you the adventure, escapism, warmth and happiness we intended. (With super-powered childhood literacy skills as an added bonus!)

We’d love to hear what you think about our new Alphabet Zoo series, so do drop me a line on Twitter or Facebook.

Back soon!


stories for kids

(Storytime Ed.)

Storytime Issue 28 – Out Now!

Kids magazine subscriptions, magazine subscriptions for kids, storytime issue 28, storytime magazine, stories for kidsOur lovely latest issue – Storytime Issue 28 – with a striking Selfish Giant cover got a little lost in the kerfuffle of Christmas, and I feel I might have done it a disservice by not shouting about it and its talented illustrators enough. I hope this blog post can make up for that.

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Flying fairy cat by Benedetta Capriotti in Storytime Issue 28

Leading Storytime issue 12 is a traditional Celtic folk tale called Fairy Cakes, illustrated with the best fairy-powered flying cat ever by Benadetta Capriotti. It’s a gentle story, ideally suited to any child who is unnerved by tales with terrible baddies. And it features cake!

For laughs, we have Donkey Do, Donkey Don’t in our Famous Fables section. Almost every culture has its own version of this moral tale, so its message clearly has wide appeal. It’s deftly illustrated by Mike Moran, and we love the donkey’s comical expressions.

The Maiden and the Moon is a tale from snowy Siberia. It features a talented musician, the moon who falls in love with her and the magical reindeer who helps her to escape the moon’s clutches. It’s a great introduction to Chukchi culture, and the wonderful illustrations, gorgeously coloured, are by Kadi Fedoruk.


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Jack Frost works his magic in Storytime Issue 28. Art by David Pavon

We’re very lucky to have George Ermos illustrating for us again (he previously illustrated The Boy Who Cried Wolf in Storytime Issue 14). This time, he has brought a classic fairytale, The Fussy Princess, to life. There are versions of this story all over Europe, including Shakespeare’s Taming the Shrew. This was a tricky tale to tackle but, hopefully, we’ve given it the Storytime treatment and toned down the old-fashioned messages of the original.

We’ve also featured a poem called Jack Frost by Gabriel Setoun. Imaginative, magical, and a great explanation of where Jack Frost gets his inspiration from. The fun illustrations for this are by David Pavon.


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The Selfish Giant sees the error of his ways in Storytime Issue 28. Art by Sebastiá Serra

We love an Arthurian legend and, having featured The Sword in the Stone in Storytime Issue 13, now seemed the right moment for Arthur to win Excalibur too. The Lady of the Lake features another wonderful take on Merlin and an ethereal but child-friendly Nimue from Pablo Pino.

Finally, that brings us to The Selfish Giant by Oscar Wilde and illustrated by the talented hand of Sebastiá Serra (who also illustrated Sinbad’s First Voyage in Storytime Issue 17). Unlike our usual extracts in our Brilliant Books sections, readers get the whole story – and it’s every bit as heart-warming and life-affirming as a winter story should be.

All this plus our usual free downloads, resource packs and lesson ideas for schools, puzzles, drawing, an awesome game, book recommendations and a fairy cake recipe for fairy bakers everywhere!

Traditionally, our Storytime Christmas issue came out in November. Originally, this was to follow suit with other magazines in the retail space. However, as we’re no longer under pressure to comply with these strange practises, from 2017 onwards, the Christmas issue will land in early December, when we’re all good and ready to face the festive season. An additional benefit is we’ll no longer have a December issue that doesn’t get enough fuss in the festive fun – hurrah to that!

I hope you’re enjoying our Storytime issue 28. If you’ve only just subscribed and missed it, you can pick it up from our back issue shop – it’s well worth a read!

Happy New Year to you all! There are super stories and amazing adventures ahead!


stories for kids

(Storytime Ed.)

Merry Christmas from Storytime!

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It’s been a while since I blogged, but I had to squeeze in one last post this year just to say Merry Christmas from Storytime and our small but dedicated team.

We’re absolutely indebted to our readers and the brilliant support they give us to help Storytime thrive – and we’ve had another fantastic year of collaborating with talented illustrators from all over the world. We really are so lucky.

I haven’t been able to fit in blogging recently, as the end of 2016 was unexpectedly busy for us. As well as producing Storytime, which is the heart and soul of our company, we have a Studio arm, where we create children’s content for clients. This year, we’ve worked on a variety of exciting projects, including creating a series of digital magazines for a children’s brand in Finland, developing a new children’s magazine for another publisher, which is launching in 2017, and creating teaching resources for a former Olympic venue and tourist attraction (we also create resources for schools). We’ve also been working on book concepts for several publishers and developing new ideas for Storytime. Hectic, challenging, but massively fun!

There are changes coming for Storytime in 2017, which I’ll write about in more detail in the new year. For now, I’ll just say there’s an exciting and educational poetry series and a whole new category of stories written by fresh new voices, as well as all the classics you know and love: fairy tales, myths, legends, folk tales, fables and stories from around the world. There’s much to look forward to.

To everyone who has been part of Storytime this year – readers, illustrators, writers, bloggers, teachers, librarians and supporters all over the world – we send you huge and heartfelt thanks. We can’t do it without you. Here’s to more stories and more adventures, magic and laughter in 2017!

Merry Christmas everyone!


stories for kids

(Storytime Ed.)

Christmas Stories for Kids!

christmas stories for kids, xmas stories for kids, kids xmas stories, kids magazine subscriptions, magazine subscriptions for kids, gift subscriptions for kids, christmas gift subscriptionsI was worrying that this year’s Christmas issue was coming out a bit too early, but then the John Lewis ad landed, my postbox collapsed under the weight of various Christmas catalogues and Trump happened. Surely that’s enough to make anyone need some Christmas cheer?

Plus, we wanted to be certain that our overseas readers and lovely one-off back-issue purchasers got the Christmas issue before the big day, so I’m officially forgetting the can’t-do-Christmas-till-December stance and fully embracing the fairy lights. Fairy lights and stories make everything better – especially Christmas stories for kids!

What’s Inside Our Christmas Issue?

We’ve packed our all-new issue (Storytime 27) with as many Christmas stories for kids as we can, and the star on the top of the tree is The Nutcracker (above), illustrated with utter perfection and a colour palette that looks good enough to eat by Gaia Bordicchia. This is the third time Gaia has contributed to Storytime. If you love her work as much as we do, also see the folktale Fate Finds a Fish in Storytime Issue 5 and Heidi in Storytime 14. And check out her Instagram feed.

Opening the issue, we also have some colourful retro goodness from Pablo Pintachan, who has created a brilliant Bob and a gorgeously graphic pile of pressies for our poem, Christmas Gifts. A poem with a fun twist.

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A snowman in progress in our Red Mitten story, Storytime Issue 27. (Art by Kim Barnes)

Our folktale this month features a group of animals who try to squeeze into a red mitten to keep warm in the snow. Kids will love seeing the procession of creatures from a tiny mouse to a great big bear trying to wriggle their way inside. Including the most fantastic boar ever! Our adorable illustrations are by Kim Barnes.

Next up, there are surprisingly few Christmas stories for kids (short ones, anyway) featuring the origins of Santa Claus, so we were pleased to feature a legend about the young St Nicholas in Turkey and how he first began to give gifts. Olga Demidova provided truly lovely illustrations for this.

Our fable, Two Turtle Doves, has a Christmassy title and a message that’s particularly poignant at this time of year… there’s no place like home. This is a nice one to read together with your family, all cosied up. We love the characters Fleet Wing and Soft Feather and how Barbara Bakos has brought them to life.

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A Christmas story from Norway about a heroic bear. In Storytime Issue 27. (Art by Robb Mommaerts)

From doves to a rather spectacular bear who saves Christmas no less. Our Around the World Tale comes from Norway and tells of a bear who takes on some annoying trolls in a way that will have kids cheering with delight. Illustrator Robb Mommaerts has packed in an incredible amount of love and detail into the heroic bear, and his trolls are perfectly revolting!

Lastly, one of the ultimate Christmas stories for kids. We wanted to give our readers an introduction to A Christmas Carol and the baddie everyone loves to hate – Scrooge. Though the film is familiar with many families (especially The Muppets version – a big hit in our house), the book often goes ignored. However, there are many child-friendly, abridged versions out there and we’ve got one up for grabs in our latest competition. Illustrator David Navarro created the exact Scrooge we all imagined for this extract!

Plus, as always, there are activities throughout the magazine, and drawing, colouring and puzzles in Storytime Playbox.


As ever, we’ve strived to have a diverse mix of Christmas stories for kids and illustration styles, so that every page feels fresh, unexpected and entertaining. Whether you devour it straight away or save it for a stocking filler, we hope you enjoy our Storytime Christmas special – and that it brings a tingle of festive excitement and some happy memories to your home or class!

It’s never too early to get the fairy lights out,


stories for kids

(Storytime Ed.)