I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the future of ‘Story Seekers: The Business’ recently. This has partly been inspired by my storytelling sessions and my blogging, but also by the fact that H is definitely coming out of the baby stage so my potential new career is getting ever closer. He’s currently in the midst of potty training and we’ve already had the letter to sign him up for pre-school when he gets his free hours next year. It’s just brought home to me that there’s a lot of thinking and a lot of work to be done if I really want to make a go of Story Seekers.
Apologies in advance if this post is somewhat haphazard in its organisation, though I’ll try and articulate my thoughts as coherently as possible.
1) What is the best way to get the message across?
I am concerned about finding the best way to share my passion for reading with children without coming across as preachy. Although in my head I realise that one of the main purposes of Story Seekers will be to help as many families as possible enjoy reading together, when I start talking about it I am very conscious of not telling people what they should or shouldn’t do (most of the time there isn’t only one ‘right’ way anyway). I am not pretending to be some kind of expert and I want to maintain the parent-to-parent informality. On the flip side, if I’m asking people to pay to attend classes, workshops or events with their children then clearly they’re going to have to think that my ideas are worth spending money on, so automatically I’m distancing myself from them. ARGH, it’s a vicious circle!
2) How formal should the sessions be?
In light of the above and of my recent realisation about my love/hate relationship with crafts, I have been wondering about the possibility of offering more informal sessions. Most of the classes I have attended with C and H have been mostly like a very fun sort of lesson, i.e., we all sit round on chairs with our children and listen and there is little time for individual interaction with the class leader. Whilst I still think it would be lovely to have a group storytelling session, I wonder whether the rest of the ‘class’ should be much less structured, with toys, books, dressing up clothes, etc. and refreshments for parents and children – more like a playgroup, I suppose. I could work with smaller groups of children on little drama activities and maybe even food-based ones (I do love cooking. Actually, I love eating, but loving cooking is a necessary byproduct…). Adults could then talk amongst themselves whilst playing with their children or come and chat to me about books and reading.
3) A mini library and story sacks
I would definitely love to have a little library system of my own, with both books and story sacks. I would happily work alongside the main library with this if there was any way to collaborate, but am equally prepared to get things going myself – I’ve been very inspired by Carmen’s work with the Rainbow Library.
4) Family workshops
Linked to the above point, I am especially keen to make families aware of high quality books that they might not easily happen upon anywhere else. Books that celebrate diversity in all its forms and books that cover essential aspects of family life, both big and small (I’m thinking potty training, weaning, sleeping, sharing, making friends, etc.).
Again, not that I’m ANY sort of expert, but I’ve also wondered about whether to branch out and offer workshops that cover other areas of family life. I really enjoy being able to offer up my own experiences as a parent (and occasionally as an ex-teacher) when asked by friends and family and often refer people to books that might help, in addition to talking through possible ways forward. I’d also be really keen to help children learn about the different lifestyles of people from all walks of life, including practical things such as which words to use to describe people of different skin colours. I mention this last point specifically as my Year 5 class were lucky enough to attend a series of workshops about celebrating racial diversity, run by a charity. Their main area of questioning centred around what words they should use, as they were very keen not to offend anyone. This is something that has come up recently with me too, although linked to words with negative mental health associations rather than racial ones. I am not ashamed to say that I’m learning new things all the time, so hopefully it’s possible for children to learn along with us.
6) What sort of venue would be best?
It seems that the venue is going to be key to making Story Seekers work. Given that I will have to discount a purpose-built place (though I can’t stop dreaming about it / sketching it even so!) I’d really love to hear from people about what sort of venue they think would be suitable. Large halls might not offer the ideal level of intimacy, but the space will still need to be big enough to set up different activity areas and give parents and children a chance to explore. The furniture will need to be comfy and practical, but could I feasibly transport a large number of beanbags (along with all the other resources) around with me each day?!
7) Offering support and a chance to chat
There are obviously a huge variety of reasons why parents might not already be reading with their children, but the chances are that none of those reasons are things that people will want to sit around and openly share, or certainly not until they’re very comfortable with me. What might be the best way to offer support for parents without making them feel as though they are lacking (which they won’t be, but I can see how they might feel that way)?
8) What would be job title actually be?
As much as I’d love to work for free simply for the love of reading, the fact remains that I’m going to have to earn some money from what I’m doing and I sincerely hope that this doesn’t alter how the message comes across too significantly. Having come from a very structured profession like teaching, it’s hard to get my head around the fact that going ahead with Story Seekers will involve all the inevitable consequences and potential insecurities of working on a freelance basis. Having a more fragmented working week will no doubt be interesting, but I can still hear a voice in the back of my mind telling me to keep things clear and simple to get others on board.
These are all the different things that I think could be a part of Story Seekers:
– baby and toddler classes based on reading and sharing books
– workshops in children’s centres, schools, and nurseries, again based on reading and sharing books
– workshops on other aspects of family life that people might find useful
– working in schools in some capacity as a ‘reading for pleasure’ champion. I’m not sure whether this would be as a teacher (perhaps doing PPA cover as happened in with D&T and music in one school I’ve taught at) or a school librarian (though I understand that they are unfortunately a dying breed) or simply through taking Story Seekers sessions into schools
– setting up an FCBG group in my local area (which I’m trying to do regardless of whether or not anything else works out)
– running regular storytelling sessions in the local area
– maintaining and constantly updating a website as a resource for families. This would include activities that link with what we have covered in the classes or workshops, information about upcoming events (both mine and other people’s), information about reading, book reviews, etc.
– setting up a children’s literature festival in the local area.
Thank you sooooooooooooooooo much if you have read this far and if you have any comments to add, I’ll be eternally grateful 🙂