Just over a week ago, I was lucky enough to visit the Discover Children’s Story Centre in Stratford, London. I’d been hoping to go for the first time with the boys over the summer, but got waylaid by picnics and scooter practises in the park (just re-read that and realised it sounds as though we had glorious weather for months on end. I should add here that we undertook both activities in the rain as well as the sunshine).
I therefore ended up making my excursion – minus C and H – at the end of September, during a period of maintenance for Discover. The fact that they were closed to the public and we therefore got a ‘behind the scenes’ tour actually enhanced my experience and I feel as though I’ll be able to get so much more out of a family trip now. Unfortunately, we don’t live close enough to visit Discover regularly, so I’ll want to make sure we get the most out of each and every time we do.
The day was made even more special because I met up with Charelle, from over at Bookaholic Mum beforehand and we went along to Discover together. You can read her brilliant review of our visit here. Charelle and I discovered that we had lots of similar ideas with regard to how we’d like to share children’s books and work with them and it was a real confidence boost to realise that someone else was thinking along the same lines and therefore my ideas might actually be OK. Also, given that the vast majority of my daily conversations are with two little men aged three and one, I don’t get often get the chance to have detailed discussions with like-minded people about Story Seekers (although I’ve found Twitter invaluable for connecting with those people and sharing shorter chats). I feel immensely buoyed by the fact that Charelle and I can work on our individual projects ‘together’ and use each other as friendly sounding boards along the way.
We were met and shown round by Racheal Brasier, Discover’s Marketing and Communications Manager, who couldn’t have been more kind and helpful. As well as a guided tour, she took lots of time to just sit with us and answer our questions. In the interests of brevity (not my strong point, but there’s a first time for everything), here are the three most useful things I ‘Discovered’ (pun intended!):
- That babies loved to visit Discover. One of my main worries about Story Seekers (and one of the questions a few people have raised when I’ve shared the idea of Story Seekers with them) is that although I passionately believe in sharing books with children from birth, this wouldn’t translate into a successful format for a baby and toddler class with such young ones. Racheal said that Discover was aimed at 0-11 year olds and that the babies seemed to get as much enjoyment from it as the older children. I know that I’ll face different issues given that I’ll be moving between venues for the sessions, but it was certainly heartening to know that it would be worth offering Story Seekers sessions from birth.
- That Discover is constantly changing, adapting and finding new ways to progress and collaborate with other similar organisations. Being someone who likes to be in control and have set plans in place, one of the things I’ve found hard about the premise of setting up my own business is that there are always factors outside my control and there will always be ways in which I’ll have to change and adapt myself. My husband keeps telling me that although the central vision will remain the same, a lot of the details about Story Seekers will change between now and the time I can actually get it going. I now see that this is both Very Scary and Totally Brilliant.
- That I might actually have reasonable taste in children’s books. Of course, I take great inspiration from the likes of Playing By The Book (@playbythebook), Child Led Chaos (@ChildLedChaos), The Book Sniffer (@maybeswabey), The Little Wooden Horse (@pollylwh), and Library Mice (@librarymice), to name but a few, so I’m not in any way pretending that the credit is all mine. However, the Discover bookshop was somewhere that I felt instantly at home and as though the manager had really taken her time to select only the loveliest books and this was partly because we had already read so many of them (I’m not prepared to admit how many we actually own – my husband despairs at the rapidly decreasing amount of free space our house contains). I know it shouldn’t, but it feels like a big step to tell myself that I can be trusted to select high quality books for Story Seekers, as obviously they’ll form the basis of everything that I do.
My parting thought was how lovely it would be for the Midlands to have somewhere like Discover. I know that Oxford has the wonderful Story Museum (another place on my ‘to visit’ list, along with Seven Stories in Newcastle) and I’m very excited about their plans to open a permanent centre in 2015. I’ll just have to try and develop Story Seekers so that it fills a little bit of the gap in Warwickshire as well!