Right, so I figured I might just write down, for the first ‘official’ time, what my thoughts and hopes are about what Story Seekers could become.
Having worked in a very structured profession as a teacher all my adult life and having had no-one close to me who has ever set up their own business from scratch, I feel as though I don’t even know where to start.
I’ve think I’ve done all the things I could easily do without too much time or financial commitment – registered the domain name, set up an email account, a Twitter account, etc. I’ve done some pretty basic research into the technicalities and the admin side of running a business, but I’m fairly confident I’ll be able to pick these things up once they become more relevant, i.e., when I’m a bit closer to actually starting ‘work’ (I feel the need to emphasise that, as it always irks me a little when people imply that being at home with two small children isn’t work! As I’m sure most people who’ve been there and done that know, it’s one of the hardest jobs ever!). I have many flaws, but one of my positive qualities is that I’m very organised, so even being as self-critical as am, I think I could cope with the admin side of things.
I have lots of ideas for advertising and marketing Story Seekers too, although again, they’re not really appropriate yet.
I’ve done lots and lots (and lots and lots and lots………..!) of reading around reading and have gained confidence in forming and expressing my own ideas on the subject – being vocal about my passions and beliefs is something I’ve always found harder, so at least there’s been that one positive spin-off even at this stage. To go off on a slight tangent, two of the best books I have read (so far – still got a huge stack waiting for me (which is SUCH a lovely feeling – I really worry when I don’t have a few books lined up 😉 ) are ‘Reading magic’ by Mem Fox, and ‘The rights of the reader’ by Daniel Pennac. The latter has been mentioned a few times this week, by various people I follow on Twitter and in various publications, so I’m not the first to post this, but I wanted to include a link to this poster – with the gorgeous Quentin Blake illustrations – as I just love it!
I guess the main worry I have is that the actual concept of Story Seekers is somehow flawed; that my (to me) oh-so-exciting idea just won’t work in real life. So, despite many reservations (and terribly vain fantasies about people stealing my ideas – ha ha, I’m pretty sure that’s not a problem yet!), I thought I’d try and write down the sort of thing I’m imagining.
Maybe it’ll make it clearer to me, maybe some of you will be kind enough to offer your thoughts and advice, maybe it’ll just make me feel good for having completed yet another blog post – who knows! My head is telling me that it can’t do any harm, so here goes:
My rambling thoughts at this stage!
1) I’d like to develop a baby and toddler class that focused on the importance and FUN of reading with children. If possible, I’d like to make this available from birth (or even antenatally, though really not sure what interest there’d be for that!) as I remember how nice it was to have a reason to get out of the house in the early days, plus I read somewhere this week (if anyone can point me in the direction of the article I’ll happily credit it, but I can’t remember the source right now) that a lot of parents don’t start reading to their children until they are about seven months old, which misses an important window in language development.
Age-wise, the classes would be grouped in stages, up until the child started school.
Each session would involve reading some or all of at least one book and then some sensory, musical and play activities linked to the book(s), plus maybe an oral storytelling element where I took a few suggestions from the group and then made up a story about them on the spot. This is a game that my granny used to play with us when we were younger and we LOVED it! I would also like to offer hand-outs, and have an accompanying website, that provided information about associated books (i.e., if your child enjoyed this book, then perhaps they might also like…), music, websites (and maybe even apps) and further activities that parents and children could do together linked to the texts.
The sessions would maybe be grouped into modules, so that we had a few weeks on stories related to food, a few weeks on animals, etc, with modules being appropriate to each age group.
It might be that the youngest age group was run as an all-morning drop-in session rather than a fixed-time class, but either way, it would certainly be relaxed, allow space for feeding, etc. I am keen that the groups would also allow parents and carers to have a chance to meet, as most of the classes I took / take C and H to didn’t have this and I found it very odd to bump into someone in Sainsbury’s and not even know their name, despite having been at a music class with them for nearly a year! So maybe a 15 minute ‘chat’ slot at the end of each class???? I know some groups already do this, but have just never been to done myself.
I’d also like to have a system for lending out books and story sacks on a weekly basis, if possible.
2) I would love to also take these classes into children’s centres, pre-schools and nurseries, either as a weekly activity (C’s pre-school has a weekly music lesson from an external provider) or on a workshop basis, to provide a stimulus for further activities after I’d gone.
3) If possible, I’d also love to run after-school clubs at primary schools along the same lines as the above, although again, obviously with age-appropriate texts.
4) In a TOTAL dream world, I’d also like to organise a small-scale pop-up children’s literature festival in my area, based around the same themes as the above and, I’m sure, also influenced by the many larger events of this sort that already exist.
Here are my worries!
a) That parents wouldn’t buy into this idea as they see reading as a more intimate, family activity that is done at home. I did read a really interesting interview with the author Frank Cottrell Boyce this week – http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2012/jun/18/frank-cottrell-boyce-interview?CMP=twt_gu – and this quote particularly encouraged me:
“In his talks, he emphasises the pleasure of people reading together: book circles, families queuing to read the latest JK Rowling or similar, school classes passing a book round and taking turns to read out loud.
The communal side appeals to him, even after years in the highly competitive media world. He says: “Competition will sharpen a knife, but never make one.” Mutual encouragement, and the sort of teamwork he has experienced in the film world, are the means to increase the pleasure of reading still more.”
Maybe the key is me just working out how to translate his admirable sentiments into a tangible activity that would really help parents? Still not sure…
b) That parents would think that my classes were actively going to help with the technical aspects of children learning to read. Having closely followed the furore over the phonics testing for Year 1 that was introduced this week, I’d want to make it really clear that my classes were contributing to the ‘bigger picture’ of encouraging children to read for pleasure as children and as adults, as I believe it is this approach that supports all the claims about readers having better ‘life chances’. As a result of this, it might be that there are no quantifiable benefits that I could claim to deliver (they wouldn’t be able swim, to use baby signing, play a drum in time, climb a climbing frame, etc) in the same way that other baby classes can. I’m sure that pretty much all parents would say they wanted their child to enjoy reading, but whether they’d pay to have someone (hopefully) help them achieve this without any immediate guarantee of success is another matter.
c) That there are already enough baby and toddler classes around, as well as free sessions at the library, etc and regardless of how important people might consider the content of Story Seekers, there are only so many hours in the day and pennies in the bank.
d) That because I am the kind of person I am and also because I am so involved with the subject matter and am so excited by it and believe in it so much, I won’t be able to be objective enough to operate it as a business. I know you definitely need passion to get a business of your own off the ground and that no-one will believe in you if you don’t believe in yourself, but maybe I’m just not the right person to deliver all of this stuff.
OK, well, I think that’s everything for now. I’m sure there’ll be other aspects that I suddenly realise I’ve left out, and I know for certain that I’ll always find more worries to add to the list, but I think this about covers it for now. Huge congrats if you’ve actually read this far – please accept a virtual gold star for your efforts! If you’re also kind enough to offer your own comments, then please have a further virtual ten house-points and a virtual shiny certificate 🙂