Archive for the ‘Stuff We Love’ Category

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

Interview with Jessica Bowers

 

Interview with Jessica Bowers, Well-Being Writer

 

This year Storytime is turning 7, and to celebrate we are holding a new competition for our readers. We love coming up with themes for our competitions – and receiving thousands of amazing and creative entries from our readers!

 

This year, the theme we have chosen is happiness, emotional health, and resilience. In our new Happiness Is… contest, readers will get to think about what really makes them happy and send in pictures of what happiness looks like! Needless to say, we’re looking forward to receiving many bright and inspiring pictures from you all! The winning illustration will feature in Storytime magazine next Spring!

 

We believe that taking care of our minds is very important for kids and adults alike, so we have created a special Happiness Is… activity pack to inspire you and get you ready to draw your entries! To come up with really good activities and bring all the important information to you, we obviously needed help from an expert consultant!

 

We reached out to the wonderful Jessica Bowers! She is a well-being writer, an experienced counsellor, psychotherapist and all-round lovely person! Jessica has provided awesome content for the Happiness Is… pack. She has shared great tips and exercises to get everyone tuned in with their emotions and ready to draw! You can download the new Happiness Is… competition entry form and activity pack HERE

 

And there’s more! While working together, we realised that emotional wellbeing is really important, and we decided to make it a regular part of Storytime! That was why we created a brand new section called My Mind Matters! From October, Jessica will be using this section to introduce ideas and activities about emotions, coping skills, and ideas that will help kids (and adults!) to communicate effectively about what they are feeling.

 

After all that we have been through in the past 18 months, we really wanted help our readers to stay healthy and happy. It’s our 7th anniversary and this is our little gift to you! We hope that you enjoy the Happiness Is… contest, the activity pack, and the new My Mind Matters! section. And now…. Let’s find out a bit more about the wonderful work Jessica does!

 

  1. How did you become involved in child psychology and counselling?

I have always loved working with, and spending time with children, and I have always worked within caring professions – it has given me a huge amount of professional satisfaction. When I embarked upon my counselling and psychotherapy training over 10 years ago, I just knew it would be a life-long love and passion. I have 3 young children, who have hugely inspired my journey as a well-being writer.

 

  1. You are a counsellor, psychotherapist and parent. What practical advice would you give to parents and carers when discussing emotions with their children at home?

Discussing, sharing and expressing feelings as part and parcel of everyday family life would be my key piece of advice. Normalising feelings like anger is hugely important, as it takes the shame away from experiencing them. Conversations might not always go perfectly, and we don’t always know what to say – but those difficult conversations are really important.

 

  1. And for teachers? In your experience, what is the best way to communicate about emotions in the classroom?

Similarly, using emotional literacy as part of everyday conversations with children. When reading books, teachers can ask how characters might have felt during a part of the story; engaging in discussions around naming and expressing feelings in positive ways.

 

  1. We are very happy to have you onboard as our Judge for the Happiness is…competition! It was great fun developing the activity pack together with you. What should our readers look for inspiration when trying to draw “happiness”? What will you be looking for in the entries?

I am so thrilled to be on board and excited to see all the entries. I am sure that all of the children will draw from their hearts and from their passion – those entries will stand out I’m sure! I write from my heart; I guess that is what I am looking for!

 

  1. From October, you’re also writing a new section in Storytime called My Mind Matters. Can you tell our readers a bit more about it? What ideas do you want to introduce in this new section?

I am so very excited about this. I want to develop children’s emotional literacy, emotional intelligence and understanding of mental health issues in an accessible way. I want to offer tips and insights about expressing emotions, building resilience and self-care. I hope that both children and parents find it helpful!

 

  1. We have bonded with you over our mutual love for stories and rhymes! What is the importance of stories in helping children to navigate through life and emotions? Do you think they are important tools for parents, carers and teachers too?

They are such an invaluable tool! Stories, like the wonderful ones in your magazine, deal with many different issues in a three-dimensional way; bringing them to life. Stories and illustrations can really deepen our understanding. They also bring us together and show us that we are not alone in the challenges we face.

 

  1. And talking about brilliant stories…. Your new book Fantastic Fin Faces his Fears has just come out! Tell us a bit more about it and what inspired you to write it?

Thank you! Fantastic Fin is a children’s picture book aimed at 4-7-year old children. It’s a rhyming story, where Fin embodies different characters and animals to build his courage and resilience and face his fears. There is a fear fact file at the back to help children, and tips for parents and carers too. My passion for writing exploded during lock down, and my inspiration was my oldest son Finlay, who is now 8 – he needed help and support with building his courage when he was younger, and I used these ideas with him. I was also a little girl who had huge feelings, and I would have greatly benefited from some insight and understanding about this – so I guess I am also writing for that little girl too!

 

– Sounds great! Where can readers find your book?

It is available from Amazon and you can find details about it from my website: www.jessicabowers.co.uk. You will also find a free 17 page activity and teaching resource pack there too, linked with the themes in the book.

 

  1. One of the many amazing things you do to support children’s mental health is running ‘Get Active With Emotions’ and workshops in schools. How did you start doing this, and what has the reaction been like from pupils?

My ideas to create these workshops were an extension of my writing during lockdown – I think there is a gap in schools for such workshops which develop children’s emotional well-being, and I have created workshops which strike a balance between being fun, engaging and informative. I am very excited to start delivering these from September 2021, and I am looking forward to gaining some feedback from schools, to help me develop more in future.

 

  1. What is the importance of caring/working on/ being aware of well-being from a very young age? Is there such a thing as too early to talk about emotions?

We look after our children’s well-being from birth (and in the womb), where we respond to their emotional needs as part of supporting their healthy development as a whole. As they start talking and from around 3, we can start to help little ones name their feelings, and model ways of expressing and managing them – so I think it is never too young to start.

 

  1. You have recently started to share some content on social media – and they are great! We know those nuggets of inspiration can be really welcome when someone is having a difficult day! How has the engagement been? Do you have any plans to develop it further? Are you doing any podcasts soon? What other ideas and projects should we look out for from you in the future?

Thank you – It took courage for me to start sharing my poems and insights, but I am pleased I have. I really want to educate and inspire others to look after their mental health and well-being and I have had such a positive response from those who follow me.  I will continue to post these as well as develop more children’s resources and activity packs. I am also continuing to publish my collection of well-being picture books – next comes Fab-filled Frankie’s Huge Heart (inspired by my daughter) who will be supporting children with separation and loss. I am also developing one of my workshops into a book to support children with expressing their emotions – using the concept ‘Let the Rain Fall so the Sun can Shine!’ where FALL is an acronym for ‘feel, act, listen and learn and let go’ – I feel very passionate about it. Andrew Whitehead (www.since6.co.uk)  the amazing Illustrator of Fantastic Fin has created some lovely visuals to engage the children with the concept.

 

I am on facebook and Instagram @jessicabowerswellbeingwriter and on Twitter @bowerswellbeing.

You can email me at enquiries@jessicabowers.co.uk.

Best ‘Back-to-School’ Books

 

Have you got your back-to-school reading lined up yet? There’s no better way to prepare for the new school year than with one of these brilliant children’s books!

 

Parrot Street Book Club co-founder, Sarah Campbell, gives us the lowdown on how fiction can help your child with the transition back to school this September and which chapter books she recommends you reach for first.

As the long summer holidays draw to a close, some of our children may be feeling anxious about the return to school. Whether they’re starting somewhere new or simply moving up to a new class, the transition can be challenging, both academically and emotionally.

 

Reading can help our children express their feelings…

Reading broadens our children’s vocabulary, which obviously has enormous academic benefits, but also helps improve their emotional literacy too. Reading gives them the language to better express how they are feeling and explore their emotions in a healthy way. Being able to express yourself well also helps build confidence, which is so valuable at this time of year.

 

And make new friends!

Reading helps our children understand others – it’s crucial in developing a stronger sense of empathy and a host of other social skills. When our children read about a character in a book, they have a response to that character, either positive or negative or something in between, and those responses are great practice for when they meet and react to people in their real lives.

Navigating the complexities of social interaction can be much easier when you’re able to understand other perspectives. Reading is a great way to equip them with the skills they need for interacting with other people in their daily lives.

 

Read together

Reading together, even once our children are able to read independently, can offer the opportunity to discuss key issues that might be affecting them or making them feel anxious. Books allow our children to explore, question and work things out for themselves. Reading together and talking about what we’ve read can afford both parents and children the perfect opportunity to discuss difficult issues in a safe setting.

 

Books for back-to-school

If your child is worried or nervous about making the transition into the new school year, here are a few chapter books for kids aged 5 to 11 that we think might help:

 

Five Ways to Make a Friend by Gillian Cross, illustrated by Sarah Horne

This lovely book follows Ella as she starts at a new school. All she wants to do is find a friend, but it’s really hard. The girls aren’t interested in her and she doesn’t have the courage to just join in… When she finds a book about making friends, Ella decides to try out the tips it recommends. Perfect for 5+.

 

Ottoline Goes to School by Chris Riddell

This volume in Chris Riddell’s bestselling and beautifully illustrated series follows Ottoline as she enrols at the Alice B Smith School for the Differently Gifted. Amongst new friends with a host of unique skills and talents, Ottoline sets out to discover her own different gift. Perfect for 7+.

 

The Boy Who Made Everyone Laugh by Helen Rutter

Aspiring comedian Billy is moving up to secondary school. It’s a challenging time for everyone, but especially for Billy who has a stammer. How will he find his voice, navigate his new school and make new friends, if his voice won’t let him speak? Perfect for 8+.

 

Planet Omar: Accidental Trouble Magnet by Zanib Mian

This hilarious illustrated chapter book tells the story of Omar, who has just moved into a new house. Starting at his new school is ok, apart from the fact that class bully Daniel tells Omar that because he’s a Muslim, he’s going to be kicked out of the country. But when Omar and Daniel get stranded on a school trip, Omar realises that Danny isn’t so tough after all… Perfect for 8+.

 

Pie in the Sky by Remi Lai

When Jingwen moves to a new country, he feels like he’s landed on Mars. School is torture and making friends is impossible since he doesn’t speak English. Baking cakes is the only thing he can do to distract himself from the loneliness. This funny and moving story is packed with graphic novel elements. Perfect for 9+.

 

Parrot Street are an award-winning, book subscription box for 5 to 12 year-olds. We’ve teamed up with Sarah and the team to offer an exclusive discount for Storytime readers. Visit their website here and enter the code STORYTIME15 to receive a 15% discount, valid until the end of September

 

Happy reading,

 

The Storytime team

Add Magic to your Holidays!

 

Add Magic to your Holidays!

 

It’s the summer holidays! Dreams of endless ice-creams, warm waves, long days and outdoor picnics are on everyone’s minds. Of course kids are excited about being out of school and have all kinds of ideas about what they would like to do to fill up the (hopefully) warm, sunny days.

But after a while, the cries of ‘I’m bored! There’s nothing to DO!” will begin. Blame it on staycation, or on rainy days or simply because … there is a LOT of time to fill up! Summer is the time to go on adventures and make memories that will last a lifetime, and stories can provide great inspiration for fun activities.

Reading stories is great for bedtime and rainy days, but we also want stories to inspire our readers to get out and play! We have been digging for treasure in our archives and have found some great tales that inspire all kinds of fun summer activities…

 

1. Time for a Treasure Hunt! – ‘Alfie the Pirate’ (Storytime #30)

A little bit of imagination can transform an ordinary experience into something magical! Alfie proves this when he creates his own adventure in his backyard, and creates his own tale of action and adventure. Where would your kids like to go today? To a far-off land, a magical kingdom, or a distant planet?

Activity idea: Choose a theme for your adventure! Draw a treasure map of your home or garden and hide some special treats for the kids to find along the way. Make sure to come up with cool names and ideas for imaginary creatures and obstacles they might encounter on the way!

 

2. Go wild! – ‘The Selfish Giant’ (Storytime #28)

Parks are great places to explore – and they are even more fun with friends! This is what the giant discovers in Oscar Wilde’s classic tale, after all! Most parks have awesome playgrounds but don’t forget to explore the woodlands or the ponds nearby.

Activity idea: Why not take the kids on an impromptu wilderness expedition? Prepare a picnic and a little backpack with special “tools and toys” for the adventure. This way the day will feel like an expedition and when everyone is tired, you can set camp and share some yummy food!

 

3. Make a splash! – ‘Moon River Melody’ (Storytime #71)

There’s nothing like a swim on a hot summer day, as the Pied Piper learns when the Little Mermaid call for help! Beaches and public pools can be brilliant, but there are other options. A paddling pool or even a nice cool bath are refreshing too (can be great fun), especially if there are toys to play with.

Activity idea: If you don’t have a handy place to go swimming, why not visit some swimming friends at the local pond? Bring some bread, peas, sweetcorn and birdseed for the ducks and ducklings and other water birds! Imagine what life would be like if you were a duckling and make up stories about their adventures.

 

4. Visit animal friends from distant lands! – ‘Alphabet Zoo’ (Storytime #29-45)

Going to a zoo or city farm is educational and exciting! Our ‘Alphabet Zoo’ poems are all about the wonderful animals that can be found there. You can spot them in alphabetical order too – it can be really great fun reading the poems out loud! How many of the animals from the poems can you spot at the zoo?

Activity idea: Learning about animals is great fun! Why not print out some copies of the animal data card that you can download from HERE and write down the things you find out about them from the information posters at the zoo?

 

5. Travel through time! – ‘Away Game!’ (Storytime #78)

In this story, Lincoln and his friends go back in time and play football with some kids from the Middle Ages. We haven’t invented a time machine (yet!), but going to a museum or nearby historical place can be the next best thing! Kids can learn about what life was like in older times, and can imagine what their life would have been like if they live there and then! It’s exciting and educational – and a real time-travelling holiday adventure!

Activity idea: Make your time-trip even more fun by dressing up in costumes! The costumes can match the adventure and make it all more real! Kids can really bring history to life by pretending to speak and act as if they are really from a past era!

 

Whatever you do, we hope you have a great summer break, and do let us know what you get up to in the comments below!

Happy holidays,

 

The Storytime team

What Shall We Talk About Today?

 

What Shall We Talk About Today?

 

Talking to each other is a wonderful thing! It gives us a chance to share perspectives and experiences and helps bring us closer together.

You might have discovered, however, that it can be hard to find new things to talk about when you have been together for a long time, like in the past few months during lockdown or sometimes on a rainy holiday somewhere. That can happen when we can’t go out and do new things and spend a lot of time with each other in the same environment!

But why not make the most of these times and talk about things that matter and find out what everyone thinks about new topics. When it comes to conversation-starters, it’s hard to beat a good story. Here are some ideas from our past issues to start some great conversations.

 

Away Game! (Storytime #78) is a fun story about three boys who accidentally travel back in time to the Middle Ages – and play a pick-up game of football! They go back in time on the same village they live in – and can recognise some parts of it but are also surprised by other the aspects they did not know. After reading this tale, why not discuss the history of your neighbourhood, and what life would have been like there 50 (or 500!) years ago? Are there any buildings, landmarks or that date back hundreds of years and give an insight into its history? For extra fun, look for old photographs of your area. Which bits are still the same, and which have changed beyond all recognition?

 

Not a Robot (Storytime #53) stars a robot who is activated after a power cut – and is found to have a personality of his own! This story could start a discussion about the roles that smart machines are having in our day-to-day lives! We don’t yet robots walking down the streets (yet!), but ‘smart’ programmes are responding to our voice commands and helping us to pick which online videos to watch. Researchers are developing programmes to drive our vehicles and pilot flying delivery drones – and what will happen after that?

 

Mr Luck and Mrs Luck (Storytime #57) is a classic fable about the two characters of the title. As you might have guessed, Mr Luck relies on fortune, while Mrs. Luck puts in hard work. Why not read it and then have a chat about which is more important if you want to achieve things? Here at Storytime, we believe that luck can have an effect on our lives – but pluck is far more important in the long run!

 

Mulan (Storytime #67) is a very old story – but it is still relevant to us today. Mulan was a girl who wanted to help her family, even if it meant going off to war in disguise! This is a great tale to begin a conversation about what women have achieved in their fight for more career opportunities – and the challenges they still face.

 

Why Whales Swim in the Sea (Storytime #23) is set in a place that few people have heard of – and even fewer people have visited! It’s a legend from Patagonia – a beautiful but desolate area at the southern end of South America. Stories like this one are fun to read, but they also teach us things about distant parts of the world, as well as the people and animals that live there. Reading a story set in a distant place with someone is a great way to go on an imaginative journey together. After reading it, discuss what you learned about the story’s setting, look at the map to spot some new places and even wonder what animals live there now!

 

We hope you enjoy sharing a cup of tea and a good talk with the ones you love! Can you think of a story that you have read which sparked an interesting conversation? If so, let us know about it below!

The Power of Telling Stories

 

What’s our Superpower?

 

You have probably noticed that this blog has begun with a strange question! As human beings, what is our superpower? Is it our intelligence? Perhaps, but there are plenty of other clever creatures out there, from whales and octopi to parrots and chimps.

 

As the editor of Storytime, I spend a lot of time thinking about stories. In fact, I have a theory that is telling stories is actually what makes humans special. That might sound a bit absurd, because other creatures can communicate too. However, as far as we know, humans are the only creatures that can tell long and elaborate tales – which are a very effective way of passing along knowledge and wisdom.

 

What better way is there to make this point than by telling a story?

 

A member of my family is an anthropologist who works for a global health organisation. His job is to teach people all over the world better health practices. One of his projects was to teach good hand-washing techniques (and this was well before COVID-19 broke out!)

One day he carefully and logically explained how to wash your hands to a class of kids. They understood what he was saying, nodded along politely. However, when he came back a week later, they still weren’t washing their hands in the way he had told them.

 

At first he felt frustrated, but then he had a think. He might have given the kids the facts, but had he really connected with them?

 

The next time he spoke to the kids, he told them a story about the Porcupine, and how he stopped all of the other animals in the forest from getting sick by showing them how to clean their paws. This story made the kids’ faces light up, and from that day on they washed their hands very well indeed.

 

Why had his story worked so well, when just logically stating facts had failed? That is because stories work on more than one level. They contain information, but they also engage with our emotions so that we can relate to what is being said.

 

Here at Storytime, we love different stories from all over the world, and some of them are very old indeed. These stories have lasted because they and the lessons they teach resonate with us today. Think of the story of the Trojan Horse, from Storytime #49 – we all know that it is wise to be suspicions of strange gifts, but it is more compelling when part of a stirring tale.

 

We might all know that it is not a good thing to give in to worries over something that might never happen – but the characters in the story of Henny Penny (Storytime #19) bring it to life and make us laugh along.

 

Or consider the message of The Midas Touch, from Storytime #8. We may understand that getting what we want might have unwelcome consequences, but the story makes it much more immediate and relatable. We suddenly understand WHY it might be so!

 

As humans, telling stories helps us to pass on our knowledge and wisdom – and bonds us as people. Why not take the time to tell your story to someone and then listen as they tell you theirs? It might be a child who wants to tell you about their day at the park, or a grandparent reminiscing about times past. Using our superpower can be a wonderful thing!