Archive for the ‘Stuff We Love’ Category

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!

G’day Australia!


Storytime is launching in Australia!We have some very special news this week! We love sharing the joy of stories all around the world – so it’s extra-exciting to announce that Storytime is going to be launching in Australia!

Our partners are marking this occasion by publishing a special bumper issue – a treasury of tales from Australia and the Pacific. Look out for it if you happen to live in Oz – as the special title will be available for limited time only if you subscribe!


Here is the link:


Our Director, Leslie explained, “Australia has a rich culture of storytelling, and a vibrant, varied magazine industry, so we have been eager to see a version of Storytime for Australian readers for a long time. Our publishing partner has a great deal of experience of publishing and distributing magazines that appeal to both parents and schools – so we are confident that with Storytime Australia we will have a big hit on our hands!”


To celebrate this GREAT news, we thought we would share our favourite stories from that corner of the world and take a trip Down Under through our tales!


Aboriginal stories

The Sky Brothers Bring FireStorytime 32

What better way to start than with the Aboriginal tale? A story about how everything started! The siblings of the title come down to Earth to see the wonders of the Australian landscape and the amazing creatures that live there! After their visit, things will never the be the same again! The Aboriginal myths about the origins of Australia have a special magic of their own, and it’s not to be missed!




Maui Goes FishingStorytime 20

Maui is a very famous Māori hero and he has featured in a few of our stories over the years. We chose the first one of all, which is a great introduction to the trickster hero! Across the Tasman Sea lie the islands of New Zealand, which has its own beautiful scenery and wildlife. This Māori myth is about how New Zealand (or Aotearoa) was created, and after reading this one, you might never look at these islands the same way again.



The Shark GodStorytime 41

This short tale is from Fiji, the famous Pacific spot with an amazing sea life! As you may have guessed, it features a rather demanding shark and a battle that will cause waves! Don’t worry, though – the art for this story is bright and lively, and you will love the face off, when the big fish meets his match. It is wonderful to takes the reader on a journey to explore the wonders of the stunning Pacific Ocean!



The Great DroughtStorytime 83

Since we are talking about wild life and animals, we might also remind you all that Australia is home to some of the most unique creatures on Planet Earth! Australia has a rich tradition of animal myths and this is one of our all time favourites! It’s a really funny tale that stars a very greedy frog, but all of the most loved Aussie creatures get a look in – from the koalas and kangaroos to emus and echidnas, not to mention wombats and wallabies. It’s a must-read for wildlife lover!


The Tears of a StarStorytime 40

Our final choice is a sparkling one! This is an enchanting myth from Papua New Guinea, which lies just to the north of Australia. It’s set in a time when everything in the universe could think and speak. Despite its title, this is a tale about a counting competition between a star and the grains of sand on the beach. What makes this endearing and unique is the lovely artwork, which really has to be seen to be believed!


We hope you enjoyed this tour of our favourite tales from Down Under. There are lots more to be discovered, so dive in and let’s explore it together!


PS: You can listen to a special Storytime Australia launch interview with the Storytime team here:


And if you have friends or family in Australia and are looking to bring some story magic into their lives, make sure you sign up here:

An Ode to Print


An Ode to Print!


Electronic devices enable us to access, millions of e-books with the touch of a finger. They are easy to download and much easier to store than printed books. Most children’s books and magazines are now available in digital formats too – and our own Storytime Hub is thriving!

Of course, many children use electronic devices at an early age, and they can be great learning tools. But although it is important to embrace new technologies and make stories available in all formats,


Deep Reading

‘Deep reading’ is an important process which occurs when reading from paper – and particularly when reading long, high-quality texts. Screens affect our reading processes, and the more we read short texts on screen, the more our reading shifts towards skimming. Consequently, our tolerance for reading long literary texts diminishes and we lose the benefits of using the cognitive processes involved in deep reading. In addition, reading from devices is often disrupted by interactive touchscreens, hyperlinks and alerts, which move our attention away from what’s being read. This adversely affects our comprehension and reading speed.


Mindful Reading

Printed books help children develop the habit of reading in a state of mindfulness. They slow us down and enable us to engage with a book with no sounds, distractions or screen glare. Reading printed books teaches us to connect with the present moment and be in the reading space, which is a wonderful thing to learn and a habit to develop that will be useful in life.


Shared Reading

Printed books make shared reading easier than e-books. Shared reading is incredibly important when it comes to encouraging a child to read. A book allows for more discovery and children can interact with it for longer in a more engaging way, as well as being able to colour in, draw, underline words and so on.


Reading for Pleasure

Studies have found that reading for pleasure plays a huge role in a child’s confidence, personal development and academic achievement. It is so important that reading for pleasure now forms part of the National Curriculum. If you read books to your children, you will introduce them to the magical world of stories, adventure and fantasy. It will be a gift that lasts a lifetime!


Shared Reading Tips

  • Sit together with your child so that your they can see the pages you’re reading.
  • As you read to your child, get them involved from the start. Can they guess what the story might be about from the title?
  • Follow each word of the story with your finger, so your child can associate the sounds they’re hearing with the letters they see.
  • Encourage your child to read out loud with you when reading rhymes and repetitive stories.
  • Ask your child to listen and repeat unfamiliar or hard-to-pronounce words. This will help their pronunciation. Discuss what the word might mean to help build their vocabulary.
  • When you find a complex idea or sentence, stop and ask your child whether they understand it.
  • Point to the illustrations and ask your child who the characters are and what happens next. This helps build anticipation and encourages participation, too.
  • When reading aloud, put lots of expression into your reading, so your child can copy what you’re doing.
  • When you’ve finished, ask questions about the characters and what happened to them.


Every month we send thousands of printed copies of Storytime all over the world, in beautiful colourful envelopes addressed to lucky readers everywhere. We love that they will get lost in our pages, enthralled by the most beautiful illustrations and enchanting words! That’s the power of print, and for us it will never be lost!


Happy reading,

The Storytime team


Reading is fun, entertaining and relaxing; it also improves writing, spelling and vocabulary and increases general knowledge and understanding of other people and cultures. Here’s how you can help your child to fall in love with reading:

  • Make reading part of your child’s routine and life.
  • Have old and new books around at home and treasure them.
  • Pick books that are at the appropriate level for your child.
  • Put aside quality time to read together every day, even if only for ten minutes.
  • Listen attentively when your child reads to you. Dig deep into the stories with them.
  • Value the importance of books, magazines and stories. Discuss them with your child, ask why they like certain books.
  • Don’t leave home without a book so that your child can read anywhere.
  • Join your local library and visit it with your child so they can choose and borrow books they are interested in and discover new authors for free.
  • Exchange books with friends.
  • Treat your child to a magazine subscription or book vouchers for special occasions.

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: