Archive for the ‘Inside Stories’ Category

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 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: and Drazen Zigic

Four steps to support struggling readers


One of our key aims at Storytime is to share our love of reading with as many children as possible – but for some children, reading is a challenge.


Children with Special Educational Needs (SEN) can have a hard time learning to read as sometimes their condition affects the development of their foundational language and social skills. Even those who have learnt to read may struggle with comprehension, which can greatly impact their confidence and performance at school. It is estimated that almost a fifth of all children in UK schools have special educational needs (SEN) that affect their reading, and most of them are educated in mainstream schools that have limited resources[1] to help them.


It can be daunting to realise that your child has severely fallen behind their peers, and parents may at times feel that they are facing an unsurmountable challenge when supporting their child’s learning. However, there are some simple strategies and tools that parents, carers and educators can use to support their children and positively impact their reading and learning processes.

[1] Source: Department for Children Schools and Families Building Bulletin


1. Choose the right books

When trying to engage a child with reading it is essential to choose the right books to begin with. Some material might be overstimulating, and others are not stimulating enough. It is crucial to strike the right balance.


Choosing a book in line with your child’s interest is a good start. Choose the story together – let the child pick their favourite theme or topic as they are more likely to engage with it when reading.


The layout of the book or magazine should be simple and easy to understand. Changes of pace in stories make it easier for the child to follow the plot, and stories with a slower pace will be easier to follow for beginners.


Illustrations are a useful tool to help a child connect with a story and facilitate imaginative play. Artworks can trigger a range of feelings and inspire us to investigate further what we are seeing or hearing, and can be especially helpful for children with SEN, who often learn better with visual stimuli.


2. Put some time aside to plan the stories

SEN children often benefit from routine and consistency, so create a regular timeslot in the evening for reading with your child. Even five or ten minutes can make a difference!


Do some preparation before reading with your child – go through the story highlighting the words that are repeated most often or are onomatopoeic, as this will help them understand the structure of the story. Point out the trickier words and explore them. Make a glossary in the form of a deck of flashcards, with drawings which will help them to form mental images. Then, when you do read the story together, you do not have to stop too much to explain things.


I do a lot of historical research for my stories, then filter out things that might be too complex or gory for the target age group. However, I do my best to give the ‘flavour’ of an era.


3. Shared Reading

Shared reading is incredibly important when it comes to encouraging any child to read, and this is especially true for children with SEN. This is a simple process which helps bond the parent and child and, if done on a regular basis, it may considerably enhance a child’s reading ability. Here are a few more pointers:


  • Sit side-by-side with your child so that they can see the pages you are reading.


  • Take your time and use the images as a starting point for exploring and discussing the story with your child.  For instance, look at the cover together; what could the book be about? Get your child involved in the story from the start and encourage them to talk about it.


  • When reading the story, point to the illustrations and follow each word with your finger, so that your child can associate the sounds they are hearing with the letters they see.


  • When reading aloud, put lots of expression into your reading so that your child can copy what you are doing. You could use different voices to create more engagement or choose other reading styles which may better suit your child such as picture reading for instance. You can also share the storytelling roles and give a character to your child so they can play a role too.


Encourage your child to repeat any rhymes or repetitions out loud.  Praise them often.


4. Have a conversation

Praise them!

When you have finished reading, talk to your child about the story, ask them questions, engage with them, and encourage them to talk. And praise them again! Praise and rewards are a great way to keep them motivated and engaged in the activity.


Follow-up conversations may also help with reading comprehension, which is a critical building block for effective literacy development. This is also an opportunity to help them understand the narrative, analyse the characters and the plot, and build their vocabulary. All this reinforcement helps them to consolidate their knowledge and comprehension.


Finally, it is important not to get discouraged! Most children with SEN will learn to read and enjoy storytelling. It is sometimes just a matter of time – many children eventually develop a real love for reading and turn into real bookworms. Reading plays a huge role in a boosting a child’s confidence, personal development, and academic achievement. It is a gift that lasts for a lifetime.


We hope that sharing the gift of stories will lead to some amazing, shared moments! Many children with SEN can connect with and learn from characters in stories. Tales can teach us to communicate emotionally while also developing literacy levels.


We developed Storytime with struggling and reluctant readers in mind – because we believe that with the right support and strategies, children who are struggling with literacy can blossom, and even become avid readers. A magazine is usually less intimidating than a book, and easier to complete for less confident readers.


The huge variety of subjects in Storytime means that there is a story in it for everyone, and the different levels of difficulty allow the readers to progress through the issue from shorter to longer stories without feeling intimidated. Colourful bright illustrations and the lack of adverts help to keep the readers engaged with each story with no distractions!

Experiencing the Past

Experiencing the past


Here at Storytime, we love history! It tells us about where we come from – and it’s a brilliant source of amazing adventures.


Children’s author Amanda Brandon certainly shares our enthusiasm! She loves to delve into historical settings in her tales (check out The Chariot Race from Storytime 83!). In this blog .


Amanda is a gifted storyteller and has had nearly 20 titles published, including picture books A Scarf and a Half and Unicorn Training and stories for young readers. An avid bookworm since childhood, she wants children to discover a joy for reading which will last a lifetime. And we couldn’t agree more!


Studying history helps children to understand the world better and learn lessons about happiness, facing challenges and the concept of ‘difference’ that are still relevant in the modern day. But how can we bring the past to life for them?


Firstly, there are many marvellous non-fiction books that present historical information in an entertaining way. The Horrible Histories series is full of fun and gruesome tales about the Ancient Greeks, Victorians, Romans and others! There are also Horrible Histories games and quiz cards that are brilliant for kids who are reluctant readers but like to absorb facts in different ways.



Encouraging children to read historical fiction set in the past is another great way to help them imagine what it would have been like to live in a different time and place.

In my book Battle for Freedom, the main character is Rowan, an ancient British shepherd girl who uses her knowledge of the marshlands to outwit the Roman invaders and help the warrior queen Boudicca.


In Sprog the Time-hopping Frog, the title character leaps back to Ancient Greece and takes part in athletic games!


In both stories, I tried to give children historically accurate information but deliver in an entertaining way. Including details about food, clothing and key events really brings an era to life!


I do a lot of historical research for my stories, then filter out things that might be too complex or gory for the target age group. However, I do my best to give the ‘flavour’ of an era.


For example, in The Great Chariot Race (Storytime 83) I hope I gave a feeling of what chariot-racing might be like for a young Roman boy.




My favourite subject to research was the discovery of King Tutankhamun’s tomb. I was fascinated by the real-life hunt for the Egyptian ruler’s treasure – it was like an old-time adventure with intrigue, setbacks and secret tunnels! I thought it was a perfect subject to focus on.


What child doesn’t like the idea of searching for buried treasure, after all? Pharaoh’s Treasure mixes fact and fiction in a story about a boy who wants to be an archaeologist and embarks on an adventure of his own.



I love chatting to older people about their school days or what they used to do for fun! By encouraging children to talk to older relatives and acquaintances about their experiences, you can help them to understand different periods and how the world has changed. Speaking to a family member makes history more relatable, and it also gives a chance to record their recollections so their stories can be passed on to younger generations.


I love to visit a ‘living museum’ that brings the sights, smells, sounds of the past to life. This is another great way to motivate children to enjoy history. They can even become a part of it if there are costumes they can wear, artefacts they can touch or re-enactments they can participate in. It’s so much better than looking at dusty old objects in glass cabinets!


Kids can also get ‘hands-on’ with history by making crafts or artefacts of their own – whether it be a knight’s helmet or a Roman clay pot. How about looking up recipes from a certain time period and making historical food so you can get a taste of the past?


It’s easy to think of history as a long list of dates and facts, but with a little imagination and a bit of motivation you can seek out stories that bring history to life!


By now, you must all be keen to read everything Amanda has written so far! She also wrote Miss Beck’s Spectacular Specs in Storytime 37 and The Royal Birthday Surprise in Storytime 45. Visit her website to find out more:


Experiencing the past

We have three of her latest books to give away: Sprog the Time-hopping Frog, The Greenwood Adventurers and Pharaoh’s Treasure, by Maverick Books. To enter the draw to win, just answer the question below.

What was an ancient Egyptian ruler called?

A. An emperor

B. A bishop

C. A pharaoh


Send your answer to for a chance to win the book bundle!

Why Gratitude Matters!

Why Gratitude Matters


Gratitude is a powerful tool that can help us to look at challenging situations from a positive point of view instead of a negative one. Being grateful can be a daily exercise to remind us of how much we have to be thankful for. This has been proven to increase our happiness!


Gratitude is being able to express appreciation and thank others for the good things we share. It can help us to develop mindfulness and empathy, as well as create connections with everyone and everything around us.


But the best thing is, gratitude is a mindset we can learn. It’s an important tool because it builds resilience and self-worth. When we are thankful, we are more engaged in what we are doing and cultivate better relationships. All the positive emotions created by the daily habit of feeling grateful will help you to make better decisions in your life.


Over the past few months, the My Mind Matters! section in Storytime has taught us so much about dealing with our emotions and developing an thesaurus of emotions. Talking about being thankful in this blog feels like the next natural step!


We here at Storytime are grateful for another year of wonderful stories – and the readers we share them with! As a small way of showing how much we appreciate sharing stories with you all, here are some tips for feeling grateful in the New Year so you can feel grateful too. When things get tough, doing this will give you a new perspective!


1. Say Thank You!

It’s the simplest thing to say… but we often forget to do it. If you remember to say thank you every time someone helps you, you will realise how many things you have to feel grateful for in a day. It will also create a nice connection with those helping you and make you smile. Try it!


2. Be Kind!

There are so many ways to be kind… you can simply give compliments, share things, help someone in need, pick up garbage, visit a friend, volunteer or donate something. Kindness is free… so make sure you share it with everyone!


3. Be Aware!

Wonders are everywhere… if you take the time to look! Make a habit of smelling the flowers in your garden or on your way to school or savouring the taste of the food you eat! Perhaps a beautiful sunset or even a nice bath that will make your day. That sense of wonder helps to warm our hearts and make us feel grateful!




4. Give Compliments!

Sharing appreciation is important! Every time you acknowledge someone’s good deeds or show appreciation to them, you are planting a seed of happiness in them. That helps our relationships to flourish and makes our bonds with others get stronger. Giving them a compliment lets them know you are grateful for having them in your life!


5. Look for the Positives!

We can take a positive lesson from everything we go through! If we go through a stressful or challenging or disappointing experience, we might discover ways we can improve or things we can do differently in the future. Instead of focusing on the disappointment, try to find a positive side to things that can turn your day around… you might even feel grateful for going through a difficult experience!


6. Keep a Gratitude Journal!

Turn writing down what you are grateful for into a daily habit! It is very simple to do, but perhaps the most effective way to bring gratitude into your life is to write down three things you are grateful for every day. It might feel difficult at first but in no time, you will be feeling grateful for the big and little things in your life.




If you want a fun activity to get started, go to to download a gratitude colouring challenge that will get kids thinking about gratitude in a fun way! Every small act we appreciate can be coloured in until all the pictures are completed – this will help us to remember that every little thing matters!


Thank you for reading, remember to smile, and share stories with those you love. Here is to another beautiful year of stories ahead! Happy New Year story lovers!