Oxfam storytelling session – 4-6 year olds

So, today was my second ever storytelling session at the Oxfam bookshop and I absolutely LOVED it!  Having done the one before Christmas, I was a little more relaxed this time about logistics and I felt more comfortable with the timing of everything.  It helped that the books I’d selected were just delicious when read out loud, but what made it really special was seeing the reactions of the children who came, one of whom was the gorgeous son of Damyanti, a local fellow book fanatic and Twitter enthusiast 🙂

We started off the session by looking through a rucksack into which I’d placed items that might belong to one of the characters in our first book.  We talked about who might use these items and for what purpose and as always, the children’s ideas were far more exciting than mine!  We then read ‘The Great Snortle Hunt‘, by Claire Freedman, illustrated by Kate Hindley and published by Simon and Schuster.

IMG_4538This is such a fun book and really lends itself to having expression added to all the different emotions the characters experience as they go on their Snortle-hunting expedition.  There is one whole page devoted to showing the contents of the rucksack that’s packed for the journey (I love that sort of detail as a reader) and we took great delight in spotting all the things that matched what we’d found in our ‘real life’ bag.  Along the way the characters are faced with some pretty scary obstacles, but after a bone-shakingly tense moment when they first encounter the Snortle, everything works out swimmingly, for the Snortle is actually REALLY FRIENDLY (and a big fan of tea parties – hurrah!).

Once we’d finished the book, we played a drawing version of ‘Consquences’ and created our own friendly monsters, which we later named.  The children also drew a totally ginormous monster on a very big sheet of paper that the manager of the Oxfam shop had managed to find (note to self: it seems all children love drawing on really big bits of paper…)



After a quick drink and chocolate biscuit (having bookish fun requires such sustenance – it’s the LAW) we embarked on our second story, complete with wooden spoons to join in and stir our own pretend pumpkin soup!  We read ‘Pumpkin Soup‘, by Helen Cooper, published by Corgi Children’s Books.

IMG_4540Again, this story is wonderful to read out loud and the illustrations are so beautifully detailed that you could spend hours scouring each spread.  Reading books with children is always great as they always spot things that I’ve never noticed, even though I’ve read the book hundreds of times!

This story follows three friends who always assume a certain role when it comes to making their favourite pumpkin soup.  Duck is usually in charge of adding the pipkin (FAB word!) of salt, but one day he decides he’d rather do the stirring.  Cat and Squirrel are none to happy about him messing with the status quo and after a squabble, Duck storms out.  When it becomes clear that he is isn’t coming home any time soon, his friends head into the forest to find him, but to no avail.  They head home, dejected and desperately sad.  However, as their near their old white cabin, they spot a light on… Duck has found his way home all by himself!  They are so overjoyed to see him that they willingly let him try stirring the soup, which he does with gusto.

Both these stories are shining examples of great children’s books and it was an absolute pleasure to share them with such lovely children.

I’m really excited about the upcoming sessions in March and April, though am still slightly flummoxed about how best to get people to come along.  Only two children came this morning and while this didn’t dampen my (or more importantly, their) enthusiasm, it would be nice to share stories with as many children as possible.  I’d worked much harder to publicise this event than the Christmas one, but even though lots of people (far more than the venue could have coped with!) expressed an interest / booked a place, it didn’t translate into them actually attending.  I’d made a few successful changes since the Christmas session (I think that bringing along cushions and blankets to sit on worked well, for example), but I still need to work on spreading the word a bit more.

However, I need to do a bit more thinking about what ‘spreading the word’ might actually look like.  This time, I’d got posters up in supermarkets well in advance and had even managed to get a feature in our local free paper, plus had put all the information on my blog and Facebook page.  Perhaps this is one of the hurdles I’ll need to get over if I’m ever going to work essentially on a freelance basis / set up my own business?  It doesn’t feel natural to me to continually be talking about the sessions to people (either in person or via social media) as I always assume they’ll tire of me very quickly, but maybe I do need to be a bit more open about it all.  I’d love to think that the sessions will gradually gather momentum by themselves, but I realise that this is idealistic and that if I’m not proactive about it, why should anyone else be?

Anyway, I’m planning a post soon about how I’ve updated my thinking about the Story Seekers business in lots of ways, so I’ll incorporate my reflections on today into that and certainly won’t let them detract from what was possibly the most brilliant way to spend a rainy Sunday morning 🙂





  1. I think what you did looks wonderful! I wonder if you could offer to do storytelling sessions at local schools & nurseries, and then tell children about the forthcoming Oxfam story sessions & ask schools to tell parents? Also, as Oxfam is so well loved as a charity, advertise in churches and Quaker meeting houses etc. If you do it regularly on a Sunday afternoon, why not ask if you can put up posters in restaurants & cafes where families might be having Sunday lunch or tea? If my children were little & we lived near, I would definitely have been hot footing it down to hear you! What lovely books you chose!

    1. Thank you for such a lovely comment, Anne 🙂 The session was actually this morning rather than this afternoon (to fit in with opening hours of Oxfam shop) so I’m thinking that the timing would clash with (Christian, at least) church services? I’d not thought about advertising in churches though and it is a great idea… Perhaps I’ll ask if the timing of the sessions could alter… Restaurants and cafes are another great option too. I had put posters up in some schools and nurseries but I could definitely try and develop that side of things.
      I’d love to be able to do more sessions at nurseries, etc. but am a little restricted as I have H with me during the week. I’m actually doing a session at C’s pre-school for World Book Day, but my husband is taking the day off to look after H on that occasion.
      Right, I need to go and make some notes on all this. You’ve given me so much to think about and it’s all so useful! Thank you SO much again!

  2. Thanks again for today it was great how you made the kids feel at ease & get them involved straight away with rifling through the back pack. Good luck with the marketing, am happy to provide a ringing endorsement. The chance to have a browse in the book shop while the children are happily entertained could be another good selling point 🙂

    1. Oooh, that’s so true! Thanks so much for your lovely comments and for your support, it’s very kind. Would love to have B along again too – what a star!

  3. Sounds like a wonderful session – I love all the things you did to bring the stories to life. As to numbers, what was the weather like? This can have a huge impact especially on a Sunday morning when it is all too easy to stay at home mooching in pyjamas.

    1. It *was* cold and rainy this morning 😉 I’m very grateful to Damyanti and her super son for making the effort! I think it’s just a case of plugging away and letting things gather momentum. It was such a lovely morning though, I definitely want to do more!

  4. What a brilliant thing to do! I keep saying it but this is definitely on my ‘to do’ list this year. Just wish work wouldn’t keep getting in the way! Looks like you had a lot of fun (as did the kids!).

    1. It was so much fun – can highly recommend it!

  5. Thanks for introducing me to the Great Snortle Hunt! I’m only just now building up a list of titles that suit reading aloud to groups. I’m glad you went ahead despite small numbers and hope that word of mouth will eventually prevail. I realise it may not be the most popular suggestion but is it worth doing a book giveaway to entice people?

    1. That’s a really interesting idea. I’m not quite sure how it could work as I doubt either Oxfam or myself could fund it. Clearly the bookshop has many donated books, but I’m not sure what the rules are about how they can use them. Definitely worth investigating though – I’ll let you know how I get on!
      I really hope you like Snortle Hunt too, it’s such a great book 🙂

      1. Maybe there’s a publisher who has a bit of extra stock or an existing relationship with Oxfam that could help? Good luck and do keep me posted!

      2. Good thinking – will definitely ask! Thank you.

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