Christmas storytelling session at Oxfam

So, I did my first ever storytelling session today (other than when I was teaching, but that was a whole different proposition as the children didn’t really have any choice about being there and there were no parents present!).

This time, I made the posters, got up the courage to ask various nurseries, pre-schools and our local supermarket to display them, plus I obviously planned the session and prepared all the resources. Logic told me that my previous teaching experience should mean that this was a walk in the park, yet I still felt incredibly nervous and out of my comfort zone.

However, I am SO glad I did it and I hope that it’s a promising start in terms of of developing my future storytelling sessions at the Oxfam bookshop. Yes, there were quite a few people who had booked places who didn’t turn up and yes, I had to rope my husband and C and H in as back-up, and yes, I definitely need to think about investing in some cushions for people to sit on next time. Despite all that, I felt the actual stories worked really well and the activity was definitely VERY popular. (Note to self: if in doubt, give children some glitter glue and you can’t go far wrong).

Here are the books I used:

‘Night Tree’, by Eve Bunting, illustrated by Ted Rand:

IMG_3981and ‘Stick Man’, by Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Axel Scheffler:

IMG_3983I had brought in a little Christmas tree that I decorated with a popcorn chain I’d made, so we talked about that to break the ice before we read the first story. I had a few props that I used to help with the storytelling and we stopped to talk about certain parts of the book that were interesting or unusual.

We then made our own very simple decorations and hung them on the tree. I asked the children if they’d mind if I took a picture of their great work and they told me I could, so here is our finished Christmas tree:

IMG_4249We then read ‘Stick Man’ and had juice and biscuits, before a swift tidying up job on my part so that the shop could open for business at 11am.

Here are the main things I’ve learnt from today, recorded here for posterity so that I can refer back to them as the development of Story Seekers progresses:

1) I LOVE LOVE LOVE reading stories and sharing them with children. The actual reading of the stories made me soooooooo happy and I am now even more determined to make it a part of my job when I return to work!

2) I need to work out a more effective marketing strategy.

3) I need to think carefully about the age banding for Story Seekers classes, so that books and activities are selected as appropriately as possible. It’s not as though I hadn’t considered this before, but having two year olds and five year olds in today’s session emphasised the difference even a few months can make in terms of children’s interaction with books. I’m pleased that the future sessions are for narrower age bands as I think that will make the sessions more successful for everyone.

4) ‘Putting myself out there’ and taking the first steps towards a change in career is a good thing and it doesn’t necessarily matter if it takes a while to iron out the glitches. My immediate reaction to today was to feel sad that all the people who’d booked hadn’t turned up (even though I know about the unpredictability of children) and to take that very personally. However, the manager of the shop seemed pleased with the turn-out and confident that, over time, word of mouth would mean that we built up a more sizeable audience for each session. I guess that even though I read many, many blogs, articles and books about fantastic businesses that take time to grow and that experience failure along the way, I had hoped that today would be an absolute sell-out (tricky, for a free event, but you know what I mean!) and that I’d have a huge gang of people beating down my door demanding to put their as-yet-unborn children down for a place in my hypothetical Story Seekers classes. Yeah, yeah, I know – even as I type it I realise how ridiculous that sounds. Which leads me to my next point…

5) I should be grateful for having the chance to try out an (admittedly somewhat pared back) early version of my Story Seekers ideas without any real risk on my part. I am keen to help support the Oxfam shop under any circumstances, but it does have the added benefit of helping me to ascertain what works and what doesn’t before I (hopefully) get going properly.

6) I need to step back and enjoy the moment. The steps I take on the lengthy path to forming Story Seekers need to be as enjoyable as the end result, otherwise I need to question why I’m doing this in the first place. Yes, it would be great to have Story Seekers up and running one day, but even when I get there I’m sure that it’ll look quite different from how I envisage it at the moment. Perhaps it won’t work out and I’ll go in a different direction again. Whatever happens, if I’m not enjoying it at this stage the chances are that I won’t feel satisfied once I get to ‘the end’.

At least now it’s done I can relax and enjoy Christmas, before getting busy with the preparations for the next session in the middle of January!



  1. This is wonderful news – congratulations! I’m so interested to discover how it felt for you, and will be all agog to hear how this adventure unfolds…

    1. Thank you – that’s really kind. It does rather feel as though the adventure is properly beginning now, so fingers crossed it’ll be an exciting one 🙂

  2. Ooh this sounds AMAZING! Really brilliant! Well done you 🙂 So happy to read your first thing you’ve learned – I know exactly what you mean.

    1. Thank you so much for commenting, Zoe! I feel really pleased to have finally ‘got started’, even though they are definitely somewhat humble beginnings!
      The first thing did initially seem an odd thing to include, as clearly I love reading stories or I wouldn’t be considering the Story Seekers idea! However, I’m guessing you found the same thing, in that sharing stories with a group of children who’ve made an active decision to be part of the group and some of whom you don’t know, is markedly different from reading to your own children (or even your own class). I suppose it struck me that it wasn’t a given that I’d enjoy them both, so thank goodness I did!
      Thank you, also, for blogging about the things you do, as your experiences have been both inspiring and motivational for me 🙂

      1. yes, Lolly, thought it was great and important that you mentioned the joy _you_ experienced – every time I do a session I feel “renewed” – so happy to be doing what I do. As to marketing/publicity – what about a short item in your local newspaper? If you effectively write the article for them and provide a photo and get the Oxfam angle in, they may well take you up. Also I think it’s a questino of time – from small acorns mighty oaks grow.

      2. That’s a really great idea, thanks Zoe! The shop’s manager did send a small press release this time, but it wasn’t much more than the date and time of the session really. Am sure I could whip up something a bit more detailed and see if the paper went for it as there’s nothing to lose…
        As I said in my reply to Helen, I just need to work hard and be patient and I’m sure things will move in the right direction. It’s so encouraging to hear from you that you still get that ‘buzz’ after each session – clearly this exciting feeling doesn’t diminish over time 🙂

  3. Well done Loll, sounds like a great success! I think there is always a risk with free things that some people won’t turn up, as there is no risk to them if they change their mind, or maybe some people succumbed to the seasonal bugs flying round. So I wouldn’t feel too bad about that. I bet most of those who did attend will come back! Can’t wait to see how it develops next year.

    1. Thanks so much for commenting, Helen 🙂
      I’m going to have to get my head round the whole no-show thing, from a personal point of view and a practical point of view. Everything you say makes perfect sense and I know I’ve missed free stuff for various reasons in the past, so I’m trying to grow a bit of a thicker skin! But practically, I’m wondering if it means I need to try and get so many people on board that I overbook, just so that I’m more likely to have a bigger crowd?!
      Am sure there’s no easy right answer, and it’s just about waiting patiently for things to grow naturally. Shame I’m so impatient 😉

  4. I’m glad you enjoyed your first storytelling session and all went well. Looks like the kids would have had fun making those decorations too. Have a great Christmas and New Year and look forward to hearing how the next session in January goes. Perhaps you could put a little ad for the January Session in your local schools’ newsletters?

    1. Hiya, thanks so much for commenting! Thanks for your support too – I really appreciate it. A small notice in school newsletters is a great idea and I’ll definitely look into it 🙂

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