Archive for the ‘Stuff We Love’ Category

The Telling of True Life Tales – Part 2

 

This month we have the second part of our blog about telling true life tales, and how the creative work happens behind the scenes! We are publishing it to celebrate our latest competition: Create a Comic! and it’s all about writing and illustration a short comic strip starring your favourite animal.

 

For the occasion, the author Nick Abadzis, our guest judge in the competition, invited us to find out more about Laika and how she became a worldwide star through his masterful storytelling.

 

Did you get inspired? You can check out our competition here and download a full pack of activities to help you create your very own winning story here! We are looking forward to your entries – best of luck everyone

 

 

The Telling of True Life Tales – Part II

 

Guest Blog (c) Nick Abadzis 2022

 

Since I told her story in a graphic novel published in 2007, I’ve observed the tale of the Russian cosmodog Laika morph from an acknowledged historical event into something approaching cultural folklore, something almost semi-mythical as if she, as the first earthling in orbit, was a willing pioneer aware of her own undertaking.

 

She wasn’t. She was a dog, albeit a highly-trained one, and she is the only living being from Earth ever to be sent into space without the express intention of getting them safely home again. She should be celebrated, as the first earthling to cross that frontier, but to my mind, her story is also very much about the system and series of events that condoned the act of human cruelty that made her a sacrificial passenger.

 

I’ve always been careful to note that my way of telling her story was, to a certain extent, historical fiction, albeit extensively researched fiction. The graphic novel is, broadly, a biography with a bit of added supposition to join the dots between known historical events. My version of her story contains many characters who are based upon real historical figures, plus a couple I invented to give the reader thematic focal points and a sense of continuity between the situations and locales featured in the book.

 

I dramatised Laika’s life and extrapolated certain scenes from known events, but the facts of the story and what was known about her – her training, her treatment, her launch in Sputnik II from Kazakhstan on October 3rd 1957 (plus some actual dialogue drawn from the historical record), are all real.

 

Other than the medical telemetry that recorded her vital signs and death from overheating five hours after launch, how Laika felt on her voyage into orbit as Earth’s first space traveller isn’t known as there was no human present to actually observe her, so the scenes in the book that depict her experiences inside the capsule are necessarily imaginary, extrapolations of what I know about canine behaviour.

 

I hope this all served to give my retelling of her story a veracity, a sense of truth that neither contradicts the facts of her life and fate and gives a sense of how she came to be caught up in a pivotal moment of history – one that heralded the technological, information-led age we live in. To put it simply, I wanted to honour Laika and give her life a context and a memorial that I felt she deserved.

 

There is also an animated VR adaptation of my graphic novel, which was created in 2021 by a huge team of character designers, animators, VFX directors and the production staff of Passion Animation. It was directed by Oscar and Bafta award-winning director Asif Kapadia. I co-wrote the script with Asif, co-art directed the project and also provided some voice acting. It was an entirely different, almost communal experience compared to the more solitary pursuit of creating a graphic novel, but the intention was always the same – to recreate a true story and bring it to wider attention.

 

Since the book was first published, there have been a myriad other retellings of Laika’s story, in reference books, in comics and other print media, online, in recorded song and most recently, in an off-Broadway musical. There will no doubt be many more, as the story of Laika’s lonely journey slowly, inexorably becomes legend, as it edges towards that shadow of the terminator line of stories that are no longer held in living memory but in the realm of communal recollection and antiquity.

 

What I think is key is that no matter what the method, whatever the medium, the telling of a true story, however recent, however old (and if records allow), should be researched to the highest possible degree in order to honour the spirit of those involved in the original undertaking.

 

Laika (the graphic novel) is still in print in English fifteen years after its first publication and many other languages besides. This year it was published for the first time in Russian on 12th April 2022 – the national Russian Cosmonautics Day. Russia is now busy trying to rewrite history books again. Nonetheless, there’s something very gratifying about the book seeing the light of day there, as if the spirit of Laika has found her way home at last.

Breathing is a Superpower

 

Breathing is a Superpower!

 

Our My Mind Matters! consultant, Jessica Bowers, has written a very special blog this month about our theme: breathing. We often take it for granted.. but in times of stress it can be a real super power. If this blog reminds you to breath in more often, then our job is truly done!

 

It feels appropriate that while I am writing this blog, I’m breathing in the beautiful sea air of Padstow in Cornwall. When I breathe the Cornish air and see the breath-taking view, I feel present and connected to myself and the world around me. Mindful breathing enables me to embody this experience and feel truly alive.

 

Breathing is an elemental expression of life, and neuroscientists have proven that there is a clear link between our breathing and how we experience emotions in our bodies. However, we usually breathe all day, every day, without being aware of the effect it can have on us.

 

To breathe mindfully involves inhaling air in through the nose and exhaling through the mouth. Don’t do anything else – just take it in and let it out, paying attention to what you are feeling at the moment.

 

Emotions can be felt deeply in our bodies, and it is vital that we are aware of the role mindful breathing can play in supporting a healthy and positive emotional state.

 

The expression ‘don’t forget to stop and smell the roses’ is not just an empty statement, but a great example of how we can connect with the world around us and take it in. In fact, getting children to enjoy smelling flowers is a good way to help them become aware of the effect mindful breathing can have. If you ask them to breathe in and out while focussing on the flowers they are smelling, they are discovering that breathing connects us to our surroundings and can help us to feel calm.

 

The process of breathing also has a key role to play in grounding us and making us feel calm and centred. Counting can help us to pace our breathing and control any anxious thoughts going through our minds. This can also help kids to focus and settle down. It’s particularly useful before bedtime or story time!

 

If you are working on positive affirmations, they can be much more effective when combined with conscious breathing. Doing this helps us to absorb the affirmations into our bodies as well as our minds.

 

Mindful breathing can be enjoyed by the whole family. If added to our daily routines, it can have a positive effect on our mental health. This is a wonderful gift to give to our children – this simple practice can help develop their emotional resilience and well-being as they grow.
Scientific research has proven that if we stand in the superhero pose (legs apart, hands on hips and chest puffed out) and breathe in and out for two to four minutes, then we will feel more confident and powerful. I suggest you try it for yourself! This is a great one to do with children of all ages. My kids love it (and so do I)!

 

Here are some ideas for how to incorporate mindful breathing into your daily routine:

  • Do it outdoors! Try doing mindful breathing as part of a family walk or scavenger hunt. Find a green spot that feels peaceful and magical and get everyone to breathe in and out a few times before continuing on your adventure. I bet you will feel more energetic thanks to the lovely fresh air!
  • Easy Yoga! This is a wonderful introduction to mindful breathing, and there are plenty of videos available online for children and families. You could include a breathing exercise as part of your evening routine. It’s even better when combined with candles and relaxing music. Your children might enjoy choosing their own songs to relax to!
  • Try it in the morning! I have three children, so I don’t have much free time. However, doing a few minutes of mindful breathing each morning makes a profound difference to my day. I close my eyes and relax my body with every breath and then answer these three questions:
    1. What am I grateful for?
    2. What am I proud of?
    3. What is my intention for today?
  • Set a small, achievable target. This should help anyone who wakes up feeling overwhelmed by the challenges they will face during the day.

 

I hope this blog encourages you to think more about conscious breathing, and I hope you were inhaling and exhaling mindfully while you read this blog. Conscious breathing is a fabulous superpower that helps us to deal with the anxiety and stress we face in our lives. Remember to use it!

The Telling of True Life Tales – Part 1

 

The Telling of True Life Tales – Part I

 

Guest Blog (c) Nick Abadzis 2022

 

“Based on a true story”

“Inspired by real events”

“Based on the book by…”

 

How often have you seen words like those at the beginning of a film or TV series and asked yourself, “I wonder how much of this is true?” Or perhaps you watched a “biopic” movie of somebody famous and wondered, “Did that really happen to them?”

True events are witnessed and are recorded – this is history. History is the present. As mundane as our own surroundings may sometimes appear, history happens all around us in a world teeming with events on which we can train an ever greater amount of recording instruments.

Modern times and the recent yesterdays of the living are one thing, but at what point does the contemporary cross the frontier into the bygone and then into antiquity? Every generation may have its own perceptions of course, but looking back, deeper into time and recorded human history, I see a terminator shadow. It’s a line at which the daylight of living memory borders the dusk of the stories of both the recently deceased and the ancient dead.

The story of nomadic ancient humans, until they began leaving artefacts and ruins behind for later generations to study, was oral, passed down generationally, and it’s from that vast, tidal pool of spoken word storytelling that the world’s myths and legends developed. The gods and spirits of the landscape and the seas were a way of comprehending the natural world. Mythologies were an elemental lexicon consisting of earth, air, fire and water and also of the unseen, the human imagination; the spiritual and the divine – the idea that there is much more to this existence than what we perceive with our five, mortal senses.

Humankind is obsessed with its own place in the world and whether we celebrate the adventures of mythical hunter-gatherers, ancient warrior queens, dragon slayers or the first men landing on the Moon, the intent is similar – to comprehend and celebrate our own achievements and our place in nature. We bear witness to ourselves via the mechanisms of storytelling and arguably, all the stories we tell have some element of truth in them.

That is, not necessarily a consensual, widely-held truth, not empirical scientific truth, but an “emotional truth” – a sense that there’s a kernel of wisdom at the core of a story, something authentic and legitimate that either animates the make-believe or honours real-life, real world accomplishments.

Fiction and fantasy are the domains where our imaginations have free reign. Both depend on the rules you invent or abide by for your own invented universe. Telling – or, to be precise, retelling tales from true life experiences requires a different mindset. The lens through which we view history is at least as important as the choice of events we choose to spotlight. If the witnesses to events are no longer alive, there will always be a degree of interpretation, and via that translation and inevitable dramatisation, there is sometimes also an impulse to mythologise.

Via all our highly-evolved modern storytelling apparatus, it’s easy to transmute true stories into modern day folk tales. A myth is constructed, whether its bricks are built of the raw materials of real experience mixed with symbols and something more fantastical yet. A real life tale is a record of sorts, sometimes embroidered and elaborated upon, but still an account of events that actually occurred.

I believe that it’s very important to honour the past, the lives our forebears and ancestors lived, as we stand upon their shoulders. Their stories are our bedrock. To that end, research should be exhaustive, and any storyteller worth their salt should both want to get inside the heads and hearts of their subjects and the conditions they lived under and present any findings in as objective and accurate a way as possible. In terms of the actual dramatising of events, there are inevitably some liberties to be taken, but aiming for a sense of authenticity is essential.

The telling of a true, real-life tale, no matter how recent or however ancient (and if records allow!) will always benefit from in-depth research. Look for the truth behind the words, the facts behind the anecdotal, separate evidence and actuality from fable. That’s the measure of any real life tale “based on true events.”

——–

In September, watch out for our anniversary issue and an awesome competition to create your own comic strip! Nick will be sharing some insights on the creation and the telling of his own “true-life” tale, the hugely successful graphic novel Laika, published in 2007 and still in print!

 

Why is Reading Important for Children?

 

Why is reading important for children?

 

Guest Blog from Readmio

Do you sometimes wonder how to get your children to read? Are you all at sea when trying to find something they might like? And is it even worth it? After all, reading seems a waste of time nowadays… isn’t it?

Modern life is fast-paced, and it’s not always easy to find enough time for oneself. That’s exactly why everyone should learn to this so as soon as possible. By showing our children the joys of sitting down and reading, we are giving them a set of priceless life skills.

 

Time spent together

Children need us to read with them – at least when they’re very little. We read to the youngest ones and share picture books with them; we teach the older ones to read and handle new information. Many parents read bedtime stories to their kids. After reading, we can discuss the stories with preschool (and even younger) children. Adults are often amazed by their kids’ imagination – and this simple pastime opens their minds as well. Stories in books and magazines are an infinite source of inspiration when talking with your kids in the car, over lunch or while waiting at the doctor’s.

 

Language development

It’s simple – the more your children read, the easier it will become for them to express themselves. Children whose parents read to them regularly and who start reading by themselves have richer vocabularies. They can express their own thoughts better and find it much easier to work with text in general. Reading is a skill they will use for the rest of their lives, and expanding one’s vocabulary is similar to collecting LEGO bricks – the more words they have, the more they can build with them!

 

Growing imagination

Reading affects our brains differently than television. There are many educational shows for kids nowadays, but it’s always a good idea to read a few ‘ordinary’ books as well. Both children and adults create their own worlds in their minds while reading, and this prevents their brains from becoming lazy.

 

Gaining knowledge

Kids’ attention spans are usually quite short, so short stories and articles can be a perfect choice for them. When you’re choosing a book or magazine, don’t forget that children are not picky. They will happily read both Snow White and an article about the cosmos if it’s written in a way that’s appropriate for their age. By introducing our kids to a wide range of texts on various subjects, we are opening their minds to amazing possibilities. Reading can make a huge difference to their lives – thanks to you!

 

Employing all the senses

Reading can involve more than just looking at words on a page. Some books include stickers and blank pages where you can write your own ideas. Illustrated magazines can also be very engaging. Thanks to their colourful content, no one gets bored – not your kid and not even you!

  • Experiments! Read the instructions and get down to it! Who doesn’t love at-home experiments? Knowing how to follow instructions will come in handy at school one day.
  • Recipes! Recipes are actually at-home experiments as well! The results will please the whole family.
  • Crafting! Cutting, gluing, colouring, connecting… not everyone will realize that they’re actually learning by doing these fun activities!

 

Forming a habit

Many magazines are published regularly. Children love them and they can easily become part of a fun routine – kids love fining them in the mail every Monday or buying them in a shop with their parents. This builds a habit that will come in useful one day: watching the news regularly and keeping up to date on developments will make them better informed when they grow up.

 

Learning through play

Finally, books and magazines are a magical way to encourage curiosity and a love of learning in kids. Short articles can turn seemingly boring facts into nuggets worth discovering. They can be an infinite source of fun and inspiration! By encouraging our children to read, we can make sure that their desire to learn and explore never fades. That way, they will always find the world joyous and utterly fascinating!

 

This article was made in cooperation with Readmio – an app full of stories and fairy tales for children.

 

The Benefits of Audiobooks for Children

 

Audiobooks for Children

 

Guest blog by author and teacher Alicia Ortego

Common wisdom says that reading is a sign of a well-rounded person – and it is hard to disagree with that. But is it necessary to read books on paper, or are audiobooks a viable alternative?

Nowadays, many people prefer listening to books instead of reading them. Some might claim that this is no substitute for reading text on the page, but researchers have found that listening to books can actually be good for you!

 

The Benefits of Audiobooks

 

They’re great to enjoy while travelling!

Playing an audiobook while on a long journey will help the time pass quickly! It gives the whole family something to listen to together, and can provide a welcome break from playing games on a tablet!

 

They give our eyes a holiday!

Too much reading can be had on our eyes! Reading for too long can cause eye strain, and trying to focus on a book while riding in a car causes car sickness for many people.

 

Listening to audiobooks can reduce stress!

According to this research, 60% of children said that reading reduced feelings of stress. Kids have become more interested in audiobooks in recent times because they provide a way for them to relax and escape into their imaginations.

 

Listening to stories puts us in touch with our emotions!

This University College London Study proves that listening triggers more emotions than watching movies. When listening to a book, we expend energy picturing the plot. We focus more, think about it, and get accustomed to using our imagination instead of our eyes. The more we mentally engage with it, the more compelling the story becomes to us.

After a child has listened to an audiobook, why not discuss how it made them feel? This is a good way to discuss our emotions and develop emotional literacy.

 

Audiobooks help develop listening skills!

This research claims that listening to books increases kids’ vocal skills by teaching them about the importance of pauses, intonation and rhythm. It can also increase vocabulary and sentence-construction skills and teach correct pronunciation of words or names that they might otherwise only see written down. (For example, when listening to Harry Potter, kids get a better idea of how to pronounce names like ‘Hermione’.)

 

Reluctant readers can enjoy audiobooks!

This study in the Journal of Neuroscience indicates that the brain reacts to stories in the same way if it is read or listened to! This means that children with dyslexia or poor eyesight can benefit from and enjoy books in audio format, even if they might find reading them challenging.

 

Tips on choosing an audiobook for your child

 

Children will let you know what they are interested in! If a child is crazy about action and adventure stories, you won’t necessarily be able to make them excited about fairy tales. Be open to exploring subjects that they like!

Discuss the genres your children enjoy and surf the Internet searching for page-turners (audio ones, of course). Make sure they meet these criteria:

  • Good recording quality
  • A clear, pleasant narrator voice
  • Interesting plots
  • Positive themes

By finding audiobooks that your children will engage with, you will help them develop their language and comprehension skills while they explore the magic of stories!

Alicia Ortego is a school teacher and children’s book author, who has worked with children foir more than 20 years. Her books are available on her blog: https://aliciaortego.com/books/

 

Why Diversity Matters

 

Here at Storytime, we create stories for our readers – and we want all of our readers to find characters that they can identify with in our stories. That’s why we believe that diversity matters. How boring would the world – or our magazine – be if everybody looked, thought and talked the same?

This month, we are honoured to have the second guest editorial of the year by the immensely talented Nick Abadzis. He is, amongst many other things, an award-winning comics creator and graphic novelist. He is currently writing and drawing a new book entitled Skin Trouble, which will deal with issues around diversity and representation. Nick is very passionate about the importance of representation in stories and we are so happy to be able to share his thoughts on the matter in our blog. We believe his work is striking and very relevant in bringing greater awareness to this hugely important topic. (c) Nick Abadzis 2022

 

Why Diversity Matters: A Guest Editorial?

 

“Diversity” is a word that is often used to describe humanity. We are indeed “diverse,” in that we are many and myriad. Human beings come in innumerable flavours and that, to me, is a fabulous and beautiful thing. It’s our differences, our self-awareness and our ability to co-operate that make human beings the most powerful animal species to ever walk the surface of this planet. Simultaneously, it’s what makes us so dangerous – to all other life that we share this world with, and to ourselves.

Every one of us is unique and as different from one another as is every single snowflake that ever fell out of the sky over our heads. And, like snow collectively, we form a vista that, from a distance, makes it difficult to tell one tiny element apart from another. In that sense, we are certainly more alike than unalike.

On our social, interpersonal, microscopic street level, things can be a little messier. Our societies are intricately structured, imperfect systems whose communications and (social) media generally reduce humankind’s organic complexity to simplistic, often binary terms that ignore or bypass nuance.

Nuance is a perceptual language all its own. Nuance, or the awareness of it, is the kind of emotional intelligence that any healthy society should aspire to teach their kids so that their lives will be as deep, rich and layered as their parents know they are capable of being.

Children are the future, and every good parent wants to equip their offspring with the tools they’ll need to cope with life and an ever faster, ever-changing world. Certainly, no-one wants their child to be seen as less than the set of potentials they present to their parents.

The declaration of human rights states that “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” However, no matter how sound our foundational philosophies and intentions, however lofty our aspirations, all human societies remain unfair.

For this reason, representation in media – and all forms of human visual language – is of paramount importance.

Human systems nowadays tend to forsake nuance for brevity, difficult-to-digest facts for easily consumable half-truths or indeed, outright falsehoods. Yet life cannot be reduced to the kinds of absolutes that give us easy answers. Difference and sameness, conformity versus openness to other perspectives – it’s never this simple.

There are many reasons for this phenomenon, and I won’t attempt to examine any of them in detail here, but for the purposes of this short exploration into the importance of representation, it’s worth making the point that when any society seeks to reduce things to an ‘us versus them’ scenario, you know you are at the mercy of a very particular kind of storyteller – the powerful liar.

However, there are ways of approaching the contradictions of the world without either fear or the rhetoric of hatred. To fear is childish, to flounder and even glory in the absence of experience. To conquer fear is the courage of the childlike, to assume curiosity and interest over apprehension and suspicion. It’s in children that we find the many and myriad possibilities of humanity.

As children, we have greater capacity to grow and learn than at any other time in our lives. I’ve found that encouraging active mental channels back to my child-self and the innate, innocent curiosity I had back then – rather than any fear – has almost always enabled me to find pathways forward out of the depressing and stressful periods of my life.

It takes a bit of experimentation and experience to figure out how one’s own emotions really work – to not be controlled by them but make them work harmoniously for you in your everyday experience of the world.

As a professional storyteller, there have been many occasions when I have been asked how one teaches a sense of empathy, of connection, sympathy, rapport. Like any worthwhile project, it’s cumulative and ongoing. Stories equip children with information about the world in advance of actual experience.

Of course, in the realm of storytelling, opposites are useful, as conflict is drama. Good and evil, light and shadow. Left and right, rich and poor, warlike and peaceful, happy and sad. Black and white. Us against Them. Me and the other. Me and Everyone Else.

Tribalism is coded into us, which is why it can be weaponised and used against us. This is why it’s crucial that we teach our children to detect and recognise it and oppose it when it’s being used to manipulate us. Life isn’t black-and-white, or even simply shades of grey – not if we don’t want it to be.

Representation provides nuance. It’s both sophistication and an insurance against division and dehumanisation. Quite apart from that, it gives a child – or the wise adult that they’ll hopefully evolve into – a sense of place in a world that has a greater chance of reaching that aspirational goal of every individual truly being “free and equal in dignity and rights.”

It’s important for any child’s development to see themselves reflected back in the media they encounter. It’s pivotal, for their own imaginative development and evolving senses of empathy and sympathy, to give them the chances to see themselves in others, in fiction, in roles that might inspire them, whether it’s via stories on TV, in film, in literature, in comics, in games, in advertising, in public messaging of any sort. It’s essential for them to be allowed to play out of all sorts of possible roles in their minds (and most parents already know this instinctively).

For all the reasons above, representation is perhaps the most important aspect of all corners of modern storytelling, in whatever creative industry or media spotlight it may occur.

Never before has there been a moment in history when an understanding of difference as a positive has been so crucial. A connection to all our different possible and better selves has never counted like it does now, because it brings about an openness to communication and new ideas that will be essential to our long-term mass survival.

Representation is one of the basic building blocks of fostering such understanding. Representation creates consideration and connection. Never before has it mattered so much that we foster relationships, awareness and understanding between the different peoples of this Earth.

Racial strife, prejudice, differences of belief and opinion aren’t going to go away if we begin to comprehend and represent the wide variety of this world’s inhabitants better, but it’s a good start. This world may be overheating, but it’s still beautiful, full of ideas, passions, sensory experiences and ways of being and seeing that you (and I) will never enjoy directly.

Living those, through stories, via storytellers, via fiction or via documentaries, diarists and journalists… it all makes the scope of life so much vaster and richer than our day-to-day grinds. I can only thank all those sharers of experience for these gifts, for all that insight. It helps me transcend my own parochialism.

One’s own attitude to and perception of the subjects of representation, diversity and inclusion may depend on multiple factors. What I’ve learned in a lifetime of listening and observing is that not many people actually do live in a vacuum, or honestly want to return to a time when we were hunter-gatherers being paranoid about the tribe in the next valley over. “Fear of the other” is the biggest lie humankind ever sold itself. But myths hold power. They shore up all the old systems and still work as the blinkered control-rhetoric of an elite, selfish few who ensure that things stay as they are.

Language is humankind’s oldest technology, and storytelling and shared information our most powerful tool, which is why we should always exercise it and process it thoughtfully. We all have this gene, this ability for telling stories, so tell them well. Don’t live in a world without imaginative sympathy, without benevolent curiosity.

Representation is one of the most important facets of all storytelling, a versatile lens through which we can view ourselves and extend the range of our knowledge and experience. We are humanity. We contain multitudes,  and we can each all live several lifetimes inside of one, if we remain open to those possibilities.

 

We would like to thank Nick for taking the time to share his perspective with us. We hope you have found it as inspirational and thought-provoking as we did!

You can read more from Nick at his blog: https://www.nickabadzis.com/blog

We also recommend checking out Skin Trouble when it is released – we will be sharing it in our channels too and can’t wait to read it. Younger readers are sure to enjoy his comic Pigs Might Fly, which features spectacular illustrations too. It’s a fun adventure story about Lily Leanchops, who invents a flying machine to take on some wicked warthogs. We love it!

Becky Goddard-Hill: Author Interview

 

We here at Storytime believe it’s vitally important to talk about mental and emotional health – that’s why we discuss these topics on this blog and in the My Mind Matters section of the magazine every month.

 

Children’s Mental Health Week is being held on 7-13 February 2022, and this year’s theme is Growing Together. You can find out more about it here. Useful resources from the Red Cross can downloaded here as well.

 

This year, we have joined Children’s Mental Health Week by giving away a complete set of activity books by author, blogger and psychotherapist Becky Goddard-Hill in our monthly competition on Social Media. These wonderful volumes are sure to inspire children to learn about their emotions through play, and we were lucky enough to get a chance to chat with Becky about her work and find out more about what inspires her too!

 

Storytime: You have been really busy writing your books and your excellent Emotionally Healthy Kids blog! Can you tell us a bit more about what inspired you to start blogging?

 

Becky Goddard-Hill: Before I had children, I was a social worker and ran a small private psychotherapy practice for kids. I loved working with children and helping them feel strong, empowered, resourceful and able to cope with life’s challenges.

I stopped doing face-to-face work when I had my own kids, but I still had time to write. Sharing what I knew online at Emotionally Healthy Kids seemed to be a great solution. In recent years I have started direct practice again, but I still love vlogging, podcasting and writing for and about emotionally healthy kids.

 

Storytime: How crucial do you think it is to focus on mental health and discuss it openly, especially after the challenges of the last couple of years?

 

Becky Goddard-Hill: Good mental health makes home and school life easier, happier, smoother, and better in every way. Promoting it should be at the heart of parenting and education, in my opinion!

Life has been tricky for everyone over the past few years, and children have experienced living with uncertainty, poverty, stress, and illness, away from their friends and the security of school and their usual routine. This has made many children feel isolated, insecure, and anxious. It is so important to support children and help them to feel stronger, more resilient, and more confident so they can cope with life and the challenges it brings.

 

Storytime: Your books encourage creativity and interaction with nature. What role do you think they can play in nurturing children’s mental health?

 

Becky Goddard-Hill: Nature is healing, it is accessible, and it is free, so it makes a wonderful play resource for children! Even kids living in urban environments can visit parks, cloud-watch, plant wildflower seed bombs and explore. Connecting with nature is therapeutic as well as fun – it slows down children’s busy minds and helps them relax whilst also making them feel connected to and protective of the world around them.

Creativity has a similar absorbing and mindful effect, allowing kids’ worries about the past and fear of the future to subside as they focus on the present, using their imaginations and getting lost in what they are making. The flow of creative pursuits is wonderful for stressed minds and one of the key sources of deeper happiness.

 

Storytime: Could you share any tips on how we can encourage creative play with their children on a day-to-day basis?

 

Becky Goddard-Hill: We need to make time for play, so try to avoid back-to-back scheduled activities!

 

Storytime: How important do you think storytelling is for developing a creative environment at home?

 

Becky Goddard-Hill: My books contain lot of stories of real-life heroes, of inspiring historical figures and awesome inventors. Stories are amazing!

They are also a brilliant way to share messages of resilience and problem-solving, introduce kindness superstars and diversity issues, celebrate uniqueness, and so much more.

Children love stories, and they help to start conversations that are so important in a creative and emotionally healthy home. Stories allow the imagination to take flight, inducing feelings of calm and passion, adventure and resolution. They need to be at the very centre of a creative home.

 

Storytime: Have you considered writing stories for children as well or talking about emotional mental health through stories?

 

Becky Goddard-Hill: Yes, I have done this a few times for children I have worked with to help them through specific issues, and this is something I am looking to do more of for the public in future.

 

Storytime: We are very happy to be sharing the “Create your own…” series bundle with our readers this month. They highlight calm, happiness and kindness as very important emotional concepts. Would you suggest reading them in a particular order?

 

Becky Goddard-Hill: They can be read in any order, and the activities can be dipped in and out of, too! I would say that if your child is experiencing a low mood, start with Create Your Own Happy. If they get stressed, start with Create Your Own Calm, and if they struggle with being kind to themselves, start with Create Your Own Kindness. There are a wide variety of fun activities in the books, and they are so beautifully illustrated that kids find them very appealing. I hope your children will enjoy taking a good look though and picking out the activities they like.

 

Storytime: This week we celebrate Children’s Mental Health Week – but it is something we should focus on all year around. Could you share three mentally healthy habits we can add to our little ones’ routine to help raise emotionally healthy children?

 

Becky Goddard-Hill: You are so right! We do need to focus on it all year round, daily when possible. These habits can help:

 

Affirmations

Affirmations are a lovely way to start the day! As your child brushes their teeth each morning, have them repeat one of the following sentences to themselves so they feel confident and clear about their capabilities as they start their day:

  • I am strong
  • I am kind
  • I am a good friend
  • I can do difficult things

 

Gratitude

Gratitude is a proven way to help reduce stress and promote habits of positive thinking. Make it a habit for your child to say what they are thankful for on the way home from school or over dinner – and share your own gratitude, too!

 

Self-kindness

Self-kindness is a key concept to teach kids! We want it to become so ingrained that it will become their natural response to tough times.

Encourage your child to make a list of all the nice things they can do to cheer themselves up. Ideas could include:

  • Listening to music
  • Snuggling in their favourite blanket
  • Cuddling their pet
  • Taking a long bath
  • Rereading their favourite story
  • Calling their grandma

Have them keep their list somewhere safe. Suggest that they do something on that list every day, and add to it all the time! Explain that whenever they are feeling down, self- kindness can lift them up – and they should choose an activity from their list.

Learning to meet tough times with increased self-love is a positive mental health habit for life! It is never too early to teach kids to be positive, grateful and self-caring. The teen years can be tricky, and kids need coping strategies in place in order to deal with them well.

 

Storytime: Thank you so much for sharing your insights with us today, Becky! I’m sure our readers will find your books and blogs invaluable!

 

You can check out Becky’s blog at https://emotionallyhealthykids.com/.
Her books can be found at https://harpercollins.co.uk/collections/books-by-becky-goddard-hill or on Amazon here.

 

What good habits are you putting into practice this year? Share your thoughts with us – and keep following My Mind Matters! every month! For our part, we are grateful to have such awesome readers and the opportunity to share our stories and creative activities with you all. We look forward to bringing you another year of fun and happiness in the pages of Storytime!

What Makes A Good Story?

 

Happy New Year everyone! We hope 2022 will be an exciting year to us all! We thought we would kick start it by inviting some guests to our blog this year! We work with some amazing people – and have some lovely friends creating stories all over the place. So we decided to ask them to share thoughts, ideas and stories with our readers and hopefully, we will learn a lot of new things too!

 

This month our guest is the writer, artist and master storyteller Nick Abadzis. Over the course of his career, he has written for Marvel and DC Comics, created a series of amazing children’s books (Pleebus Planet) and even written for the Bob the Builder TV series. In 2007, he released a graphic novel called Laika, about the first dog in space. It won an Eisner award and several other international storytelling prizes. He recently teamed up with Academy Award-winning director Asif Kapadia to create a ground-breaking ‘extended reality’ film about Laika, which takes viewers along on the dog’s trip into space.

 

Nick can tell stories in any format – he has written graphic novels, scripts, fiction, non-fiction and he even does voiceovers… so he REALLY knows what stories are made of! People often ask Nick for advice. In this blog, he agreed to share his wisdom with us. If you love stories as much as we do, you will be fascinated to read about the secrets of a great storyteller! We hope it will also prove inspiring to any readers who dream of writing their own tales.

 

What Makes A Good Story?

 

No-one in the world is interested in hearing a bad story, or rather, a poorly told one. There are a lot of good stories out there, so perhaps the question should really be, “What makes a great story?” What makes a story so compelling and unique that you just have to hear it, want to read it, need to watch it?

 

Storytelling is something all human beings do, whether it’s a casual gossip, a joke to warm up a room or conversation to exchange information. That’s the great advantage evolution gave our species – language, via which we can co-operate, plan, compete, persuade, convince and inspire.

 

Conversation itself takes many forms – from discourse to dialogue, diatribe, debate and discussion – and is both simple and beguilingly complex. It can be straightforward or it can be sophisticated, it can be weaponised or it can be immersive, generous and transformative.

 

Storytelling, as a function of human communication, also takes many forms and is inherent in human beings – it, like language itself, is hardwired into us. Like conversation, it is infinitely malleable and is one of the oldest technologies human beings possess, older even than fire.

 

In that sense, we are all experts. We all know what we like. We might not all know when we are being lied to, but we do know when we are intrigued or entertained by a story. We all have an instinct for storytelling. There is no greater truism than, “It’s the way you tell ‘em,” whether it’s a politician on TV selling an idea, a dramatist convincing a producer to put on her play or simply a parent telling their child a good bedtime story.

 

What we all want to know is, how do I make a good story great? How do you tell a tale that cuts through all the chatter that simply must be heard by those whose attention you capture with that vital first line? If you capture one person’s attention and they like your story, they will spread the word, via conversation, via recommendation, via social media, and before you know it, you have an audience. Capturing their attention is one thing, holding onto it quite another. There are so many skills to master in storytelling.

 

Marshalling one’s own desire to be a storyteller or writer of any kind is a brave thing to do. Like any endeavour, it begins with a single step – a decision to do it, to embrace the idea and decide to live with it; to become it and make it a part of you. A beginning or a change of any kind takes courage.

 

Now you just need some ideas to develop.

 

One of the questions that professionals will tell you they regularly get asked is, “Where do you get your ideas from?” It’s a question that’s often derided as banal, daft, simplistic. It is, however, a question that articulates the basic uncertainty and curiosity that lies at the root of all storytelling, whether poor, good or great.

 

For me, the short answer to where my ideas come from is that I make them up. I have a Muse who, if she is in a good mood, supplies them to me. The longer answer is that they come from observing the world, observations and insights being the raw material that then gets processed through my own highly individual, internal filter of creativity. This is your greatest creative asset: no one sees or experiences the world how you do and if you have a manner of expressing yourself in a way that connects with people, you’re already on your way.

 

What makes a good story? You do.

 

In the end, it’s all you. A story becomes good by simply telling it once, twice, more, by experimenting with it, stretching it, reshaping it. As we all know, any story changes when retold in conversation – it gets embellished, events get reordered for dramatic or humorous effect, the tone of it can change according to your listeners’ reactions. It changes again once you write it down or begin illustrating it.

 

Stories are mutable, flexible, elastic. By telling your story seriously, or by telling it humorously, by choosing a method by which to tell it or frame it, you’re already crafting it in your own unique way. If you’re starting out as a writer, a storyteller or narrative artist of any sort, finding your own voice is the most important thing you’ll ever do.

 

Thing is, if you tell yourself that, it can be daunting, so it’s just as important to play. Don’t set yourself impossible tasks before you’ve fooled around a little and had some fun. Try telling yourself a deliberately bad story to see what happens.

 

The stories you like are not just signifiers of your own tastes, they’re signposts to the kinds of tales you’d like to tell. They’re clues to the path of your own creativity and your own good stories. Follow them.

 

On your way, always remember that mantra: What makes a good story? You do.

 

A good story is an artefact of sorts, whether constructed from words or imagery. It’s a coral skeleton of impressions, embers of a campfire left by a narrator who once stayed there into which you breathe new warmth with your own mind and imagination.

 

Finding your own sense of confidence shouldn’t feel like climbing a mountain in a day; it should feel like exploring it, camping on it, noting the changes in weather from the base to the craggiest peak. One day, if you get to know it, you’ll wake up and find that you have the confidence to push forward, to scale that mountain to the top and maybe see what’s beyond.

 

That way lies the land of the exceptional storytellers.

 

Nick writes about his books, storytelling and many other subjects on his blog, which you can find here: https://www.nickabadzis.com

 

You can also buy his books by following the links on this page: https://www.nickabadzis.com/test

Christmas Self-Care Crackers

 

Christmas Self-Care Crackers

 

Sometimes the very best gift is not something that we want, but something that we need. With that in mind, the Storytime elves have wrapped up something a little bit special for you – a guest blog by counsellor and wellbeing expert Jessica Bowers. She writes the amazing entries for the My Mind Matters! section of Storytime, and she has come up with a fantastic list of ways we can take care of ourselves during the holidays…

 

There is more to self-care than allowing ourselves a treat every now and then. It is about maintaining daily habits that of protect and promote our own happiness, health and well-being – particularly during stressful and busy times.

 

At a time the winter nights draw in and we recover from the trauma of the Covid-19 pandemic, it has never been more important to look after ourselves by practicing self-care.

 

As parents, carers and teachers, we are continually giving of ourselves to take care of our children’s needs – and our roles are challenging and multi-faceted. I am sure you have heard the saying, ‘you can’t pour from an empty cup’ – this is certainly very true!

 

It’s important to take time to think about your current self-care practices and consider where improvements might be made. Are you currently experiencing any of these signs, which might indicate that your self-care needs improving?

 

  • Feeling more tired, irritable, stressed and/ or overwhelmed than usual
  • Experiencing changes in concentration levels
  • Eating and drinking more or less than usual
  • Changes in your usual social interactions
  • Sleeping less than or more than usual

 

Self-care practices can easily be incorporated into our daily routines. Even comprise of 2–5-minute activities can be invaluable if you are short of time. These could include:

 

  • Sensory activities such as breathing in fresh air or cuddling your pet
  • A hobby that gives you pleasure, like knitting or baking.
  • You might prefer more spiritual activities such as reading inspiring quotes or lighting a candle.
  • Physical activities might include stretching, yoga, dancing and even napping.
  • Connecting with others and arranging a chat with a friend might be great too.

 

Self-care can include acts of giving to others; my passion as a wellbeing writer was borne from the limited ways in which I could practice self-care during the first lockdown. However, I should note that if the act of giving becomes part of your stress and pressure, then it is no longer in the service of your own wellbeing.

 

This Christmas, more than any other, will be a time to celebrate and get together with our loved ones. Here are some self-care practices for you and your family to try this festive season. If you do make a New Year’s Resolution next year – I invite you to consider prioritising your self-care!

 

  • Wrap up and go for a crisp winter walk in the fresh air as a family to blow the cobwebs away
  • Plan a Christmas Movie Night with pyjamas and treats to share
    Practice giving gratitude for 5 minutes each day as part of your daily routine
  • Light some candles and enjoy the warm glow in the evenings
  • Look for some mindful, breathing exercises that you could do together while listening to some peaceful Christmas music
  • Go to the library together and choose some festive books and stories to read during the holidays
  • Find some new podcasts to enjoy whilst you do your household chores
  • Try something new – maybe a new recipe or Christmas craft activity.
  • Take it in turns to plan your favourite meal once a week.
  • Create a home spa with face packs and nail painting – and give each other massages and foot-rubs
  • Do some yoga and stretches together – Cosmic Kids yoga have some very engaging free online sessions suitable for younger children
  • Download and play the Self-Care Bingo game from Storytime issue 88 and see if you can tick all the boxes on your table this season!

 

Remember, practicing good self-care will have a positive effect on your children. They can learn how important it is to take action to care about and look after themselves in positive ways too. In ‘My Mind Matters!’ this month, we have introduced the topic of self-care to your children and linked it with the festive period as well.

 

We will be looking into this topic in more detail in the future, as it is important all year round! Starting anything new takes conscious effort as well as a bit of discipline and practice – but it is totally worth it!

 

I hope you have enjoyed reading our ‘Christmas Self-Care Crackers’! Wishing you all a Merry and relaxing Christmas and a New Year full of joy and stories to share!

 

Jessica is a mother of 3 children, a wellbeing writer, and a counsellor and psychotherapist. Prior to this, she worked with children with social, emotional and behavioural difficulties for over ten years.

She has written a series of wellbeing-themed children’s picture books, aimed at 4-7-year-olds. The first is titled Fantastic Fin Faces his Fears – it is available on Amazon.

Jessica is now delivering her ‘Get Active with Emotions’ workshop in schools, and gives talks about the books she has authored. Visit her website for more information: www.jessicabowers.co.uk

Email: enquiries@jessicabowers.co.uk.

Facebook and Instagram: @jessicabowerswellbeingwriter

Twitter: @bowerswellbeing.

Ten Reasons to Love Storytime

 

It is a rare privilege to work on a project that you love – and all of us on the Storytime team are very proud of the magazine we have created. As we’ve just celebrated our seventh birthday, we thought it was time to look back through our journey from small independent publication to one of the largest children’s magazines in the country. In our humble and not-at-all-biased opinion – these are the top ten reasons why we think Storytime is one of the most special children’s magazines in the world. We hope you agree!

 

1. You’re in Good Company

Storytime is now one of the biggest children’s magazines in the UK, read and enjoyed by tens of thousands of children, parents and teachers, in over 60 countries and counting.

We also have international versions of the magazine, having most recently launched in China, with two more new versions imminent.

We’re truly honoured that what has begun as a labour of love from a small office in London is now a global success, and for that we must thank each and every one of our wonderful readers who has been part of our journey.

 

2. A Rich Variety of Stories

We’re proud that Storytime has something for everyone. Longer myths and fairy tales for kids who love getting stuck into an adventure, shorter tales that are just right for reluctant readers, and even two-page mini stories that are perfect for bedtime.

Whether kids are into dragons or space, animals or princesses, mermaids or pirates, they’ll find something they enjoy in our pages and hopefully discover something new as well. We take a lot of care to research tales from all eras of history, from the four corners of the globe, and we welcome a wealth of creative collaborators and new talent in every issue. The result is the most fun, fantastic and diverse selection of stories you will ever see!

 

3. Celebrating Diversity

Around the World Tales is consistently the most popular section in Storytime. We love to celebrate different cultures and countries through our stories and illustrations – and so do our readers. It’s important that whatever a child’s background they see themselves represented in our stories and know that they can be anything they want to be.

As publishers, we feel that we have a responsibility to showcase diversity and acceptance. Stories help us to build bridges and break down barriers. They introduce us to different cultures, places, and points of view. Every time a child sees someone like themselves in our story or learns how to look at things from someone else’s point of view, we are taking a step towards a kinder, fairer world.

 

4. Proudly Plastic Free

We’ve been proudly plastic-free since the very beginning. We recall that before we launched Storytime, several large companies in our industry strongly advised us that we needed plastic toys to sell magazines, but we wanted the quality of content to shine through instead. We know that our readers take their environmental responsibilities very seriously – and we do too!

We post our copies in paper envelopes and compostable bags, we print our magazine on recycled paper and are 100% committed to help and spread ideas on how we can all be more green! Download our Love Your Planet eco-pack here.

 

5. We Support the National Curriculum

Storytime supports the National Curriculum for Reading, Writing and Comprehension. We create a special teaching resource pack to accompany each issue of Storytime that is filled with lesson ideas, comprehension exercises, a glossary and activities that complement what kids are learning in school.

It’s not just literacy – we cover many topics from the KS1 and KS2 curriculum – from history and geography to maths and science. In particular our real-life stories section introduces children to people such as Ada Lovelace, Charles Darwin or Mary Anning. Our stories are a great way to introduce many of the subjects covered in the UK curriculum and the extra activities will help teachers and parents to take them further.

 

6. Social Enterprise

Storytime is a social enterprise, which means that money we make goes back into our work supporting reluctant readers. We work with schools, councils and other organisations to get Storytime into the hands of as many families as possible, to improve the literacy of children from disadvantaged backgrounds, and to ultimately to improve the prospects and attainment of these children.

A recent project, in collaboration with the British Academy and Queen Mary University London was a magazine series called We Are Heroes, using myths and legends as parallels to lockdown experiences children might be going through. It reached tens of thousands of children across the UK and the feedback was truly overwhelming

 

7. Improving Literacy

We know from surveying our readers that the work we are doing to get Storytime into the hands of reluctant readers really pays off. After a year of receiving Storytime 77% of children are reading for longer and 83% are enjoying reading more (Storytime April 2021 survey).

Since the first lockdown we’ve worked with organisations across the UK to post out tens of thousands of extra copies of Storytime, to families who needed additional support, particularly where there was limited digital access. The magazine format works brilliantly where parents or children may find a book intimidating, and this ‘missed time’ out of school is critical for a child’s future development. Children who are read to from a young age start school with a significantly greater vocabulary compared to their peers.

 

8. Quality and Value for Money

We firmly believe that we deliver a top-quality magazine and are determined to give our readers great value for money. Every month we bring you 52 pages full of awesome stories and beautiful illustrations on high quality paper that lasts so you can go back to a favourite story time and time again. We collaborate with a wonderful team to create original content and stunning art and strive to make Storytime the best magazine possible.

With every issue, we also reward our readers with free downloads, book reviews, competitions, bonus activities, learning resources and much more. Each issue will keep you busy for the whole month, just in time for a new one to come through your letterbox!

 

9. Enjoy Storytime Any Way You Like

Many of our readers LOVE the thrill of opening a colourful envelope and exploring a newly printed issue – we do too!

But with our online Storytime Hub, you can enjoy our stories in new ways. Over 700 stories, every tale we have ever published, can be accessed online, anytime you want. We even have audio versions of them all, which are perfect for reluctant readers, children with English as an additional language – or simply for drifting off at bedtime before children dream about their own adventures!

 

10. Making Memories

We truly believe that there’s no greater joy than getting lost in a good story. We hope that in years to come, our readers will have fond memories of the story times they shared – whether they be at bedtime with their parents or storytelling in the classroom.

And maybe, just maybe, in years to come, they’ll pass on a love of stories to their own children – and they will curl up together with a copy of Storytime too!

 

Happy story time everyone!

 

The Storytime team