Archive for the ‘About Stories’ Category

Book Clubs Are For Curious Kids!

Book Clubs Are For Curious Kids!

 

Encouraging kids to read for fun is our core mission – and we are never short of ideas about how to encourage it! You might have noticed that in the latest issue of Storytime, we have introduced a new section, the story club!

We believe that getting kids together to share tales with their friends is a brilliant way to build their love of reading and every month we will bring ideas to your club and hope to inspire everyone and every school to start one.

 

What is a story club?

A Story Club is like a book club (where a group of people get together to discuss a book they are all reading). However, a Story Club can be lighter and easier to early readers. Also, it can be more varied or more frequent and it is often possible for the members to read together during a session, as stories are shorter than books!

 

Why is it good for kids to join a story club?

  • It gets everyone reading! Fostering a love of reading is key to a child’s development, and research indicates that this has beneficial effects on their education. As a bonus, it opens them up to a world of fun and fascinating tales! Being a member of a club with their friends can motivate kids to read so they can share the story club experience…Book Clubs Are For Curious Kids!
  • It encourages curiosity! We provide sheets of questions and activities designed to encourage kids to discuss the things they have read and share ideas. Asking questions is the key to learning more about the world! They can also take on board ideas and perspectives from other members of the club.
  • It’s a wonderful way of discovering new stories! Members of the club can choose different stories to share with the group. Everybody has different tastes, so kids can discover new and interesting stories in this way. For example, a lover of sports stories might find that they also enjoy fairy tales or sci-fi adventures too…
  • It creates a fun and safe social space! Meetings give children a chance to talk with others and communicate ideas. Shy kids get a chance to speak about stories they like, which will build their social confidence and communication skills.

 

Setting Up a Story Club

We have had many requests for book club tips before, so we hope we’ve made teachers, carers, parents, and grandparents interested in setting up a story club for their kids! We will be providing guidance, downloadables and activities in future issues of Storytime. Look out for them every month – but here are some key things that you might want to think about when setting up a reading club.

  • Where should they meet? Would it be convenient for them to meet at somebody’s house? Could they use a classroom or a space in the school library?
  • How often should they meet? Think about your group! Would it be better for them to meet every week, or would once a fortnight give more flexibility?
  • What stories should they read? We would encourage the members of a club to vote on which stories they will read, but it can be useful to set up a ‘shortlist’ for them to pick from. This could include tales that are relevant to the curriculum students are on.
  • How long the will the sessions be? What is the best time to get them together? At the weekend? After school? During the lunch break? Make sure it’s easy and accessible to everyone to attend and they do not need to be too long either.
  • What should they look forward to? Takeaways are great things from the club – perhaps they will learn to interpret stories. Some clubs are all about crafts and activities, or new themes the group would like to discuss. And others might want to have a message or learning with every tale. You can choose the purpose of the sessions and make sure the readers make the most of the story. One thing is for certain – stories we fall in love with tend to stay with us forever.

 

We hope you’re as enthusiastic about story clubs as we are! If you have been with us until this very last line, we are sure you are also full of ideas for your club! Share with us and tag @storytimemag if you start something that you would like us to share and repost. We would love to see what stories you are reading, and we look forward to many more story lovers in our community! Happy reading, all!

 

Storytime Issue 110 Out Now!

Issue 110 In praise of animals!

 

In Praise of Animals!

The team here at Storytime loves a good animal story – and we’re not alone! Myths about talking beasts and ancient animal spirits can be found all around the world, and date back many thousands of years.

 

Fast-forward to the modern day, and we will find countless children’s books and animated films filled with cute creatures of all kinds. But what makes stories about animals so appealing?

 

It might be because we see ourselves reflected in them. Animal characters that behave like humans (the fancy word for this is anthropomorphic animals) are like us, but cute and cuddly at the same time. Animals can also represent our qualities, and many sides of ourselves – think of a courageous lion or a cunning fox.

 

And finally, they encourage us to look at the world from a different point of view, which is what all good stories do. If you read a story about a dolphin’s life, say, then you will learn to see things from a new and interesting perspective. Or perhaps a farm animal and their routine and habits, then you will see a life you could not have known otherwise.

 

But one thing we cannot forget to add, they are great fun! Humour is something animal tales have galore! As it happens, the latest issue of Storytime is chock-full of tales about animals of all kinds. Let’s have a look at the way they use creatures as characters…

 

Our cover star is Machali the Tigress, rendered in magnificent colours by Julia Cherednichenko. Machali was a real tiger who prowled through Rantahmbore National Park in India. She was famed for her fierceness and the many cubs she gave birth to! This tale attempts to portray her as she really was and gives a tiger’s eye view of the world. And what they would have said if they could talk! Hopefully, reading it will give you a deeper understanding and appreciation of these unique and magnificent creatures.

 

The Lion’s Fears, on the other hand, is a classic fable, where animals represent aspects of ourselves and the story is intended to teach us a lesson. The lion is, of course, a brave and fierce individual… though he learns that everyone is scared of something. Alice Risi depicts the animals of the jungle in a bright and lively fashion that complements the tone of the story perfectly.

 

Animals can also be used to address important issues in an approachable way. A famous example, of course, is Animal Farm by George Orwell, which delivered a serious political message using animal characters. A Sky Full of Swallows also addresses a serious theme with a light touch.

 

After frolicking in a meadow, a group of young animals lie back and look at the clouds and say what they would most like to see when they look at the sky… and what terrible things might also come down out of the blue. Ana Pavlenko wrote this story, which is a parable about what is now happening in her home country of Ukraine, and it is very moving. By using gentle animal characters and avoiding specifics, she delivers her message in a powerful way. Carlotta Notaro provided the art, which perfectly combines whimsy and a gentle sense of melancholy.

 

Stories about mythical creatures tap into our fears of the wilderness and the unknown. These magical beasts have strange powers and punish interlopers but also have many animal characteristics to them. That’s certainly the case in The Baby Bunyip. As you may know, this creature from Indigenous Australian legends is supposed to dwell in billabongs (oxbow lakes) and can menace the unwary. Evelina Losich did a magnificent job of illustrating this tale about what happens when a boy decides to interfere with the creature’s natural habitat and take the baby away from it. The lesson is clear: show respect to nature – or else!

 

Stories can put animals into human situations for comedic effect, as is done in the short bedtime story Sports Day for Hans. You might remember Hans-my-Hedgehog from the fairy tale of the same name in issue 84, and in this story, he is taking part in a PE contest against his will! Though he is an animal, we can identify with his situation, and Karyne Kuy’s art makes it extra-fun.

 

The endearing The Mansion of the Cats also puts animals into an interesting situation to create a funny fairy tale. This Italian story stars a girl who becomes a maid to a house full of furry felines and they are all over the pages, and Silvia Maria Becerril Guillermo really brought them to life in great style.

 

Of course, sometimes animals have qualities that inspire us humans to do better! Fabio Mancini has a flair for historical art, and he used his talents to the full when illustrating The Spider in the Cave. It’s inspired by a Sir Walter Scott tale about the Scottish noble (and later king!) Robert the Bruce. When he was on the run from his enemies and about to give up, he sees a spider trying to spin a web – and not giving up! This is a wonderful and uplifting story about what animals can teach us. Historians might say it didn’t actually happen, but stories make us believe otherwise.

 

Sorry, animal fans, but not ALL of the stories in this issue feature animals! We have a little exception but for a great reason…it was too much fun to leave it out!  Minnikin is a quirky fairy tale about a very young hero who rescues a princess with a little help from his flying ship. Paula Monise did a wonderful job capturing the wit and charm of Minnikin and his world in her illustrations – we’re sure you will love them.

 

We hope you enjoyed this tour through the menagerie of the month! Be sure to tell us which story you liked best when you get a chance to read them. This issue is loud and bold, and you might hear it roaring if you listen close enough… Brave readers, enjoy!

Get Creative With Rhymes

Get Creative With Rhymes

 

Get Creative With RhymesThe new issue of Storytime features our latest competition! The Story Rhyme! contest opened on August 2nd, and it challenges kids to write cool poems about their favourite place in the world. It was inspired by a wonderful story, ‘The Stolen Treasure’ by Ellie Williams, a fun tale about a seasick pirate who finds a wonderful new home.

 

We believe that writing poetry is a great way for children to express themselves creatively and discover the joy of playing with language.

 

We’d love it if your little ones entered the contest, and this blog gives tips on how to help and encourage them in their poetic endeavours!

 

The first step is to download our special Story Rhyme! Competition pack. It introduces kids to different poem types and poetic techniques and includes many different puzzles and games to get them inspired to write works of their own.

 

Creating poems can be playful and fun, and it’s an excellent way to let children’s’ mind run free!

 

 

If they send their creation in to us by 30th November 2023, they could win prizes: the winning poet will get their masterpiece printed in Storytime, a printed certificate, a cool book bundle, and a Storytime Hub subscription for the whole school for a year!

 

Here are some ideas to help get your kids’ creative juices flowing!

  • Get a notebook! Encourage them to jot down cool words, images, rhymes and phrases that come to mind. Then, when they sit down to create their poem, they will have material for inspiration!

 

  • Poets read poems! Other poets can be a brilliant source of ideas! Help your little ones to find poems online or in the library. They can also ask people they know to recommend their favourite poems. Inspiration can be found in unusual places – for example, the Poems on the Underground programme puts interesting pieces of writing in carriages on the London tube network!

 

  • Write regularly! Ask them to write a short verse or just note down a cool image or phrase once a day. Make writing a habit, but keep it light and fun… poetry doesn’t have to feel like homework!

 

  • Go with the flow! Kid should feel free to experiment and try out new ideas when writing poems, even if they don’t quite work out!

 

  • Try something new! If your little poets aren’t feeling inspired, get them to write a new type of poem. The Story Rhyme! Competition pack has a list of them! They could a go at a haiku, go crazy with a nonsense poem, or carve out a concrete poem in the shape of its subject!

 

  • Have fun with poetic techniques! The Story Rhyme! Competition pack also includes information on different poetic tricks they can use. You’ll be surprised by the cool rhymes, similes, metaphors and alliterations your kids can create!

 

  • Look at life in a poetic way! Ask them to describe interesting things you see in poetic terms. Things like, ‘That storm cloud hangs like a heavy hammer over the neighbourhood’ or ‘the bus crawled up the road like a ladybug down a flower stem…’ Thinking like a poet can make their life brighter and more interesting!

 

We are already so inspired just thinking of all the places we will visit through the amazing poems coming our way! Where will your children’s poems take us? We look forward to reading all their wonderful entries for our contest – get scribbling, you all, poets of tomorrow!

 

Download your our special Story Rhyme! Competition pack here.

We are excited about receiving your entry!  The closing date is 30th November 2023. Enter today to win some fabulous prizes!

The story so far…

 

It feels like only yesterday that Storytime was just a wonderful idea … and now the world’s favourite story magazine is turning 9!  It’s a pinch-us moment, something that we couldn’t even have imagined when the first issue was published back in September 2014.

 

We human beings are made of stories, so we’d like to use this very special moment to share our story as well! We have been so busy crafting tales for you all and building our brand that we have never told you about the amazing journey we have been on! Here we go…

 

We are Leslie Coathup and Lulu Skantze, and we met more than 20 years ago – when we were working in publishing, and we collaborated on many projects. We also shared a love for books and knew that literacy and reading for pleasure could change lives.  Books and magazines had certainly been very important to both of us as children.

 

We believed stories could change the world as they allow us to dream, to be brave, to imagine new opportunities and to learn resilience. Stories can question old ideas, introduce us to new cultures and take us further than we can even imagine. Storytime was born from our belief that the world needed more stories, and we wanted to bring it to life in a fun, modern and engaging way.

 

There turned out to be a real market for this kind of magazine… and we discovered that it was even hit among kids who didn’t even know that they loved reading! Schools all over the world started buying Storytime, and reluctant readers in particular enjoyed lavishly-illustrated tales in an approachable magazine format with no ads and no plastic. Schools in over 60 countries now use Storytime to teach English and to foster curiosity and creativity in the classroom.

 

The next amazing thing we discovered was that the appeal of Storytime crosses linguistic boundaries… such is the power of stories! Collaborations and licensing with international partners have led to the creation of Storytime editions in other continents. There are now millions of readers that read the same story as you every month all around the world. It’s wonderful how a love of stories connects us all, no matter how far apart we may be…

 

We kept dreaming big and decided to find new ways to deliver fun stories to people. That was how the Storytime Hub was born! Creating audio and digital versions of our entire catalogue of over 850 stories was a huge task to undertake during the lockdown years, but we couldn’t be prouder of what we have accomplished.

 

Having audio versions of our magazines available alongside digital issues allows us to reach those that cannot get Storytime in the post and has allowed for entire schools to use our magazine as an essential tool for teaching! Having stories delivered in more than one format makes Storytime your world of stories…. Where you can find your favourite tales being told in print, audio and digital!

 

We continue to support reading for pleasure and learning through entertainment with passion because we realise that this is the most powerful tool for change. Our company has expanded over the years, and we have a wonderful team that works together to bring Storytime to you all every month. Every new issue is celebrated like it was the first, and we never forget that it is a great privilege to tell amazing stories!

 

We feel that it is vitally important for young readers to read stories and keep on dreaming of better tomorrows– and our mission now feels more relevant than ever. We shall continue to create tales that we hope will inspire you to change the world!

 

Of course, our own story wouldn’t be completed without highlighting the wonderful artists that helped to bring the brilliant anniversary issue to life. So join us in celebrating them all! The magical cover is the work of Aga Mazsota, and she managed to bring the South American landscape to life in the Brazilian fairy tale The Quest for Cleverness.

 

We are in awe by how Ann-Sophie D’Hollander turned a tale of snails into a colourful garden of wonders in The Happy Family.

 

Elena Geroldi’s masterful art transported us to the Asian jungle, and her pencils rendered The Nodding Tiger in gentle strokes reminiscent of traditional Chinese art. We love to see stories through the artists’ eyes, as they often add another dimension to stories!  A similar delicate touch was used by Lily Fan in her illustrations for the pirate tale of The Stolen Treasure, written by Ellie Williams. Lovely artwork like this has to be treasured!

 

We feature the real-life story of young Albert Einstein in The Compass of Life – it’s a must-read for all STEM lovers, and it’s inspiring to see how far curiosity and a thirst for knowledge can take you! Manuel Mal takes us into the world of the clever little boy with his wonderful illustrations…

 

This month’s bedtime story features a character from a classic book – Pollyanna, from the novel of the same name! Pollyanna’s Perfect Day is a cheerful story about making the best of things, illustrated by one of our long-time collaborators: the talented Laura Proietti!

 

Let’s hear it for dear old Mother Earth and the extraordinary artwork of Leti Depedri! When we decided to tell the Greek myth of Gaia the Earth Goddess, we weren’t sure how to represent her, but Leti depicted this larger-than-life character in amazing style!

 

This story also features our newest strand in Storytime: the ‘You Need to Know About…’ section! Every month from now on, we will bring you amazing facts and figures related to the subject of a tale. It can cover anything and everything… but we can promise that it will always be fun! We hope you enjoy learning about beautiful planet and are looking forward to finding out more fascinating facts in future!

 

Finally, Waldomiro Neto brings warmth and joy to the fable of The Mole and His Mother with his art! The story is a sweet reminder about how we should use all our senses to explore the world. Fables have many life lessons to teach, but this is one that we are particularly fond of… Feel the wind, smell the flowers, listen to the beautiful sounds of nature … and never forget that we are all very special in our own way!

 

For now, enjoy this very special anniversary issue, made with love by our team. We are very proud of being 9, and for the many thousands of readers we have inspired along the way! Hip Hip Hooray!

 

Long live stories!

The Science of Stories

 

What is the best thing about making Storytime? It is definitely sharing our favourite tales with our wonderful readers. (That’s you!)

 

We humans have been telling stories for many thousands of years – our ancestors were almost certainly doing this before the dawn of civilization. You might even call humans ‘the storytelling species’!

 

We love stories. You do too, we suspect! But have you thought about why stories are so engaging?

 

Scientists have been researching how our brains engage with stories and have made some fascinating discoveries! If you needed more reasons to read more stories, then these facts below might convince you for once and all that stories are the BEST way to teach and learn, having fun along the way.

 

1. Our brains are stimulated by stories!

Researchers can scan the brains of test subjects to see which parts activate when doing different activities. When people were given lists of facts, two parts of the brain lit up: the language processing and language comprehension centres.

 

But what happens when they read a story instead? Five sections of the brain lit up: the language processing and language comprehension centres, the motor cortex (the part of the brain that plans for and executes movement), the amygdala (which deals with emotions) and the visual cortex (which processes visual information).

 

This is because when we read a story we feel physically engaged with it (think of when you felt tense when reading a scary tale, for example), we also empathise with the characters and experience their emotions at second hand, and finally we can visualise the scenes and characters described in it.

 

This helps to explain why we find stories so engrossing – reading them stimulates large parts of our wonderful brains!

 

2. These experiences help us learn!

Because so many parts of our brains are activated when reading stories, we absorb and retain information from them more effectively than when we learn in other ways. But how much more effectively?

 

Twice as well? Ten times as well?

 

Research indicates that we actually retain information from stories up to twenty-two times better, compared to a basic listing of facts. When we read stories, our brains soak up information and make connections without even realising it and therefore it’s more likely they will stay with us for longer.

 

The Awesome Adventures tales in Storytime were created with this principle in mind. Rather than presenting dry facts about famous people, we chose to share cool stories from their lives that will hopefully captivate readers and connect them with the characters. It’s no coincidence that it is a very popular section where you can learn while having fun.

 

3. We develop relationships with characters and that makes us happier!

Have you ever felt a close bond with characters in a really involving story? Believe it or not, there is a scientific reason for that! When we read a story, our brain can release a chemical called oxytocin. This is a bonding hormone that causes us to care about the people in our lives.

 

Oxytocin can be responsible for making people feel as if they relate to fictional characters. When this happens, we feel more invested in stories and internalise what it is trying to communicate with us. The feel-good factor of stories is no coincidence, it also helps us to feel like we belong.

 

4. Stories are powerful because they combine entertainment and education

Reading stories is a fantastic form of entertainment, engaging many parts of our brains and connecting with our emotions. But this also makes them powerful tools for learning – when we are emotionally connected with what we are reading, we absorb information more effectively.

 

Think back to our ancient ancestors, trading tales around the campfire. They told stories to entertain and bond with other members of their group, but also to pass along knowledge and wisdom in a highly effective way. Through history there are many examples where stories were used to protect us from danger, to guide us through challenging times.

 

Stories unite us all, and that is the ultimate power. But having science to show us how much power makes us more determined than ever to keep sharing stories far and wide.

 

Here at Storytime, we like to think that we are continuing a tradition and also bringing it to new audiences. Stories provide entertainment, escapism and education… all at the same time. And the learnings we share through them won’t ever be forgotten.

Imagine That! The Power of Fantasy in Stories

The power of fantasy in stories

 

Fairy tales, fantasy epics and science fiction stories (like ‘The Racer from Outer Space’, from this month’s issue of Storytime!) and have been popular with readers of all ages for a very long time! However, whilst some people might see this kind of story as being ‘mere’ escapism that doesn’t teach us much… we believe they play an important role in making young readers fall in love with stories! Our Worlds of Wonder strand often features adventures in imaginary worlds, with fantastical characters. They have been very popular for many years so here is why!

We would like to share seven reasons why fantastic literature should be on everyone’s reading list!

 

The power of fantasy in stories

1. They ARE escapist… and that’s a good thing!

One of the appealing things about fantasy and sci-fi is that they do allow us to escape the mundane world for a time. We all need to relax now and then, especially in stressful times, and reading a tale about an epic quest in an imaginative world might be a healthier option than playing a game on a tablet or watching TV!

 

 

2. They stimulate the imagination!

Reading any book requires us to use our imaginations to visualise characters and settings, but tales of the fantastic take this to the next level. We can all imagine a letterbox or a car relatively easily, but conjuring up a picture of an alien or a princess who transforms into a swan is a rewarding imaginative challenge!

 

3. They increase mental flexibility!

Fantasy and sci-fi tales take place in worlds that differ from our own and work by different rules. Perhaps magic works, for example, or spacecraft can move faster than light. JRR Tolkien, author of ‘The Lord of the Rings’, called fictional realms with their own consistent laws ‘secondary worlds’. Part of the fun of reading a fantasy novel is exploring a secondary world and discovering its secrets and rules. Engaging with a world that runs by a different logic to our own encourages us to think in new ways and come up with new approaches to problems!

 

4. They build new vocabulary!

The best way to build vocabulary is to read books that contain lots of new words! You can work out what they mean from context or keep a dictionary handy and look them up… Tales of the fantastic are often filled with new and interesting terms to discover. Need proof? Talk to a fantasy fan, and they are sure to know lots of cool terms for magical items or bits of medieval armour. Sci-fi afficionados, on the other hand, can tell you about high-tech concepts or facts about science and space.

 

5. They encourage us to think beyond the literal!

Science fiction and fantasy may be about different worlds, but the best ones also have profound things to say about the world we live in. They just use fantasy metaphors to communicate them to us! This means that fantasy can be more challenging than stories set in the ‘real’ world because readers must work out the messages that authors are trying to get across.

 

6. They deal with big themes!

Continuing from the last point, many fantasy and science fiction novels have profound and complex themes – they certainly aren’t ‘just’ escapism! A story that involves contact with aliens (like this month’s Storytime cover story!) makes us think about what it means to be humans and how we communicate with those that are different from us. Fantasy stories often ponder heavy themes such as the nature of good and evil and what we would sacrifice to protect the things we love. However, because these ideas are introduced in a fictional context and in fictional worlds, they can be more approachable to younger readers.

 

7. They open our minds to infinite possibilities!

As humans, we can imagine how things could be different, and then work towards making what we imagine a reality. Stories of the fantastic introduce us to mind-bending ideas and encourage us to think in new and innovative ways. It’s no mistake that many of the most successful entrepreneurs, innovators and creatives of modern times were enthusiastic sci-fi fans or fantasy gamers in their teens, as engaging with the fantastic encourages creativity. Many say that a love of fantasy and sci-fi might just have been their superpower. So encourage your kids to read fantastic stories… who knows where it might take them!

 

There should be no boundaries for which worlds you would like to visit while reading stories! We encourage you to go far and beyond, wherever your imagination takes you! And there are many places yet to be visited, so we hope to write about them all… and we truly hope you will join us!

Grandparents The Real Superheroes

 

We humans are pretty amazing creatures, and there are many things about us that might be considered ‘superpowers’. Think about our wonderful creative brains, our ability to communicate complex ideas to each other, or even our amazing thumbs, which allow us to pick up and use objects with ease.

 

But anthropologists (scientists who study human societies) think that there might be another super-secret that helped us to become so successful as a species: grandparents!

 

‘Grandparents can be pretty cool,’ you might say, ‘and they might be great at telling jokes or fixing things or baking a Victoria sponge. But how are they super?’

 

Well, research seems to show that in hunter-gatherer societies grandparents helped raise children, gathered food using their knowledge, and passed on the many things they had learned in their long lives to the little ones.

 

I bet you’re wondering, “What does this have to do with stories?’ Well, we’ll tell you: grandparents often passed on their wisdom for stories! Storytelling by grandparents is the most wonderful human tradition and it goes back to before the beginnings of history.

 

But in many Western societies nowadays, we focus so much on the immediate ‘nuclear family’ (parents and their kids) that we don’t spend as much time with the extended family (cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents). But how nice it would be to encourage grandparents and grandkids to spend more time with each other? It could enrich both their lives immensely, and what better way to do that than by sharing tales?

 

 

When children are able spend quality time with the superheroes in their lives, Nanna and Grandad, we would like to encourage them to read together! Storytime has a variety of themes and stories to please everyone and help to build a bridge between both worlds: children can share their Worlds of Wonder and grandparents can share famous folk tales from Storyteller’s Corner with mastery! They can also share their favourite stories from when they were children or talk about things they have experienced in their lives!

 

Here are several benefits that sharing stories can have in the family:

  • Grandparents and grandchildren having the chance to spend more quality time together. The bond they will create through stories will stay with them forever.
  • Grandparents will get to pass on the things they have learned and share the family’s history. This can help the kids feel ‘grounded’ and strengthen their identity and sense of belonging.
  • Senior citizens often feel isolated in modern times, and this is a great way to counteract that! Reading time could become special for everyone involved and something they both look forward to. It can be something they also look forward too, where they feel connected and part of their family lives.
  • It also gives a helping hand to busy parents, and they too will enjoy knowing their kids are having such a lovely time with the extended family!
  • It is a very important part of forming a healthy habit of reading. By creating a routine of sharing stories, your child will always look forward to it. A lifelong love of reading is a gift, and it’s one they will never forget!

 

Kids learn best from the important people around them. Storytime was created with a mission in mind – to create stories families and friends would read, love and share. To encourage everyone to spend more time reading with kids, we have created a special READ TOGETHER pack.

 

It is full of tips and activities that will make shared reading more fun for grandparents, parents, carers, uncles, aunts and even older siblings! It can be downloaded for free here and make sure to share it with someone you care about!

 

It takes a village to raise a child and we truly believe reading together is an essential part of raising healthy and happy children! Can you think of a favourite story that your grandparents shared with you? Next time you meet the real superheroes in your life, don’t forget to thank them for all the wonderful stories they share!

Heroes and Heroines

 

We all have our favourite fictional characters – you can probably name a dozen from myths, legends and popular culture! These characters can be iconic for years or even decades…. and some have had their stories told for a hundred years or more!

 

But what is their appeal? What makes some heroes and heroines stand the test of time? Studies say we like underdogs, the ordinary people who win against all odds. But other characters are popular because they are so amazing that they couldn’t possibly exist in the real world. Younger characters are appealing to kids because they can immediately identify with them – they are aspirational role models!

 

But there is one thing that all evergreen heroes have in common – they are fearless and funny and always find a way to win and go on another adventure! We have featured many of these eternal heroes in Storytime through the years, and they have entertained and inspired readers both big and small.

 

In honour of this month’s cover star, Robin Hood, we have decided to revisit some of our favourite heroes and heroines from past issues of Storytime. Have you read them all? If not, you can pick up any magazines you may have missed from our shop!

 

1. Robin Hood
Tales about the English outlaw who robs from the rich and gives to the poor date back to the Middle Ages. He has been popular ever since – probably because a clever rebel who fights back against greedy rulers never goes out of fashion! Robin’s story has been retold in dozens of books, movies, TV series and comics, and there are certainly many more to come. We have had some fabulous and fun tales in four issues already …but we are not done with Robin yet. You can read his tales in Storytime 9, 38, 57 and 105!

 

2. Finn MacCool

Mighty warriors make great heroes – and they don’t get much mightier than Finn MacCool. When it comes to battling giants, he’s your man! He is an iconic character in Irish culture, and pops up in modern novels, plays and even songs… In our magazines, you will find out about his clever wife, the giant he defeated and the fish he cooked to gain wisdom! Find out more about Finn in Storytime 7, 29, 87!

 

3. Anansi
The spider god is a ‘trickster hero’ from West African myths, and his popularity has spread to the Caribbean as well. Tricksters often triumph over stronger foes using wit and cunning – and when we are facing trouble, we would all like to have the wit and cleverness of Anansi! Perhaps that is why he remains popular to this day? Stories about his deeds have been passed down for centuries, but he also appears in modern books, comics, TV series and music. Anansi has made us laugh many times and we reckon there are many more hilarious tales to uncover!
If you do not know about Anansi, read about him in Storytime 4, 51 and 107 (not out yet!)

 

4. Ariadne
Myths are full of evergreen heroes and heroines, and this Cretan princess appeared in a couple of Ancient Greek myths already – it was she who gave Theseus the tools he needed to defeat the Minotaur and escape from the maze he was trapped in! Ariadne was associated with intelligence and spinning, so she has inspired clever and creative women for thousands of years… Read some of her magnificent myths in Storytime 12 and 104!

 

5. Alice in Wonderland
Young Alice tumbles into a dreamlike world where even the strangest things appear to be real! The character was created by mathematician Charles Dodson (writing as Lewis Carroll) in the novels Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865) and Through the Looking-Glass (1871). Her story has been popular ever since, and has been turned into movies, comics and even video games. What is the secret to her lasting appeal? It could be that we can all identify with a child who is caught up in a world that makes no sense – or perhaps we all like to visit a dream-world once in a while! Wonderland is so amazing that it has inspired several spin-off adventures in Storytime! You can follow Alice down the rabbit hole in Storytime 1, 21, and 78!

 

6. Aladdin
Aladdin is another child hero, this time from Arabian folklore (but he became famous in Europe after his stories were included in the book One Thousand and One Nights). He is a poor boy who makes his fortune after finding a lamp containing a genie! The dream of getting what you want through a combination of cleverness, luck and magic is very appealing, so it’s no wonder his story has been retold so often in books, movies and theatre! The exotic setting of this story inspired some fantastic illustrations featured in Storytime, and he even featured in our first-ever issue! Read how this beloved boy found his fortune in Storytime 1, 40 and 91!

 

7. Maui
Heroes and heroines come from all over, and we could not leave Maui off this list! Maui is a creator-god from Polynesian myths – it was he who tamed the sun and created New Zealand by hooking a great fish. He is a brave and creative hero who made life better for humans – no wonder he has been beloved among Pacific cultures for many hundreds of years! He has recently become more widely known in Western culture after he appeared in animated films. But he has always been popular in Storytime… and you can find why by reading his tales! Find out more about Maui in Storytime 20 and 48!

 

Who are your favourite evergreen heroes and heroines, and which ones do you tell stories about to your children? Who else should we have included on this list?

 

Tell us in the comments – we’d love to know who you would like to see featured in future issues of Storytime!

Exercise Your Mind With Stories!

 

We all know that physical exercise is essential for keeping kids healthy and happy. But what about mental exercise? People have begun to realise how important maintaining mental health and resilience are for young minds. But is there an exercise routine that provides benefits for growing brains?

 

We believe that there is, and it’s called ‘reading stories’! Sitting down to read a tale from the latest issue of Storytime can be thought of as the mental equivalent of a healthy run-around in the fresh air. (And of course, the puzzles in the ‘Playbox’ section of the magazine provide additional stimulation.)

 

Here are five reasons why reading should be part of your kids’ routine…

 

1. It keeps the mind flexible! Stretching is vital to keep our bodies limber, and reading can provide a similar benefit for the mind. Sitting down and enjoying a story encourages kids to analyse, visualise and use their imagination. They will explore new possibilities, empathise with others, and look at things from different points of view.

 

2. It develops mental stamina! These days, we are accustomed to getting ‘bite-size’ bits of information from a variety of digital sources – but sitting down and reading a story from beginning to end teaches kids how to focus on one thing and see it through to the end. Concentrating on a task helps us to absorb and process information, which is a key skill in the modern data-rich world!

 

3. Bulk up their knowledge! Sports people lift weights to build up muscle, but when kids read books, they are building up their vocabularies and knowledge base. The new words, new ideas or new facts that will come in useful at school and in their everyday lives. Plus, think of how impressed people will be when they show off their new knowledge!

 

4. The more they read, the easier it becomes! Just like with exercise, repeating an activity builds up our capacity to do more of it! Think of it as being like a running training programme. Children can start out small by reading the shorter stories in Storytime, move on to longer tales – and before long, they will be finishing chapter books on their own.

 

5. It helps them wind down! A ‘warm-down’ after exercise can help us to relax – and reading a tale has a similar effect on children’s’ brains! When we concentrate on what we are reading and lose ourselves in a story, it reduces stress! A recent study has showed that reading text on a printed page for just six minutes can relax our muscles and slow down our heart rate. Great for chilling out before bed – and far better than staring at a flashing screen last thing in the evening!

 

 

We hope we have encouraged you to make reading a regular part of your kids’ ‘exercise’ routine. There is one other thing we should mention: just as with exercise, it is easier to get motivated and have fun with reading if you do it with others!

 

Spending time reading an issue with Storytime with your child creates shared experiences that brings you closer together. Why not set aside some time for it this evening?

Artificial Art – What’s Next?

Artificial Art - What’s Next?

 

Have you ever wondered how Storytime is made? How does the creative work happen behind the scenes? In this blog, we will talk about how we craft every issue and how the magic really happens!

 

First, our team selects submitted tales, researches stories from the past, and writes and edits the text. We discuss how we will tell each tale, what we will leave out, and what new ideas we will add.  Then, when the stories are ready, we send them off to someone who adds their own indefinable magic: the artist!

 

Over the last eight years, we have worked with literally hundreds of talented artists from around the world. They each bring their own style and imagination to the stories they illustrate. It’s always a thrill to see what they have added to the story – they often come up with visual ideas that enrich the tale far beyond what was written in the text.

 

Storytime combines words and pictures to tell stories. We think that’s the most powerful combination there is! Writers and artists have teamed up to craft vivid tales for hundreds of years – but could technology make this kind of partnership obsolete?

 

Artificial intelligence has been used for quite some time now in many sectors. Technology can be good at solving old problems in new and efficient ways. But where do we draw the line? You might have read recent articles about a new development which some fear might take over artists’ jobs!

 

To put it in simple terms, ‘AI art’ programmes like Midjourney and DALL-E 2 can conjure up pictures in seconds. If you type in a description of what you want, an algorithm (complex mathematical formula) will create an image to order. You even can ask it to create a picture in a certain style or mimic the technique of a particular artist!

 

These algorithms work by analysing a huge database of art and then create patchwork pictures based on the millions of images they have digested. But what they create is hardly something new or original – they just combine bits of existing art in new combinations and often the result is a vaguely familiar image.

 

Where do Midjourney and DALL-E 2 get the art that they analyse? It is ‘scraped’ (gathered) from the internet and multiple sources of data. It is common for artists to see bits and pieces of their pictures in AI-created digital images. Nobody asks permission to use their work in this way, nor they get any payment or credit. While the creators of this software claim that it is intended as a tool that ‘enhances and extends the creative process’, many people disagree and there is a huge debate going on right now.

 

As it stands, it can be tempting for some to use AI created art in magazines and media. It is far quicker and cheaper, for starters! But the reason we thought we would talk about our creative process this month is because, while we have kept an eye on these debates and new technologies, we believe that creativity and human input are an integral part of Storytime. Thus, we so not think that an AI could ever replace our creative team, writers and illustrators.

 

We believe that art and stories are all about communication – human beings sharing their ideas and experiences and adding to a narrative. Stories are about characters, the things they feel, the things they do, and why they do them. That is why they draw us in! Even in fairy tales, myths or science fiction, we can connect with the characters and empathise with them. It’s more than just a formula, it’s the imperfection and uniqueness that make them unforgettable.

 

The artists in our magazine are an integral part of our storytelling process. We discuss stories and their meanings with them, and the illustrators lovingly add compositions, poses and facial expressions, rendered in their own unique colour palettes and add so many details to every scene that you feel there is another story happening in the background of every illustration you see! They always add something of themselves to the art. We love to spot these things – and young readers do too! (For example, one artist added a sword from her favourite video game to the background of a giant’s lair!) It is their skill, empathy and imagination that breathe life into pictures of characters and the worlds they inhabit.

 

You could get an AI art app to create a picture of ‘wooden puppet boy in fish stomach fairy tale’ to illustrate a tale about Pinocchio, say. The art might ‘look OK’ – but an AI wouldn’t be able to use imagination and emotion to add drama and feeling to the image and perhaps understand why Pinocchio ended up in the fish’s stomach! It would feel flat. Only an artist that reads and understands the themes and emotions in a story can do that.

 

 

We are so grateful to the hundreds of talented illustrators who have brought their magic to Storytime with pencil, brush or drawing tablet. You all help us to tell our stories in unpredictable and extraordinary ways that an AI never could. We also hope this wonderful world of original art and storytelling we have created will continue to be exciting and thrilling to the thousands of readers around the planet who chose to join us! Technology will continue to improve our lives, fill up some of the functions in society, speed up research and bring a lot of good to the world – but it shall never replace human creativity!

 

Image credits: rawpixel.com and Drazen Zigic