Oxfam storytelling session – 2-4 year olds

IMG_5195This past Sunday I held another storytelling session at out local Oxfam Books and Music shop, this time for two to four year olds.  The amazing books above are the ones we shared and all of them were very well received by the children who came along.

We started off by looking through a range of different objects that I’d brought with me (I think I’ve mentioned before just how much children seem to love the idea of delving through a ‘mystery bag’!) and then as we read ‘The Foggy, Foggy Forest‘, by Nick Sharratt (published by Walker) we talked about which item might belong to which character.

If you don’t already know the book then it’s definitely worth taking a look at if you spend much time in the company of pre-schoolers.  Each spread shows the silhouette of a well known fairy tale character doing something silly or strange (our favourites are the ogre doing yoga and the ice-cream van that’s run by Red Riding Hood and her gran) accompanied by the repeated refrain: “Who could this be in the foggy, foggy forest?”  Once you turn the page it becomes clear if you’ve guessed correctly or not and at this point we stopped to work out which item the character needed, so we had a little purple hat for the elf who’s all by himself, for example.

As with my previous session, I found that it worked really well to have a very informal lead-in activity that the children could start chatting about straight away – it is a real ice-breaker for me and for them and got us all in the mood for the other books to come.

Next up was ‘A Bit Lost‘, by Chris Haughton (published by Walker), which is one of H’s All Time Most Favouritest and Bestest EVER books.  I think we must read this about five times a day on average, so I was able to share this one without glancing at the words too many times.  One or two of the other children there knew it as well, which means we had lots of enthusiastic joining in with making pointy ears, etc.

Again, for those who don’t know the book, it follows the plot of a baby owl who falls asleep and bumps down to earth from a tree.  Lost and lonely, the owl enlists the help of a passing squirrel in the search for Mummy Owl.  The well-meaning squirrel gets a little confused with the owl’s description of its mum’s key characteristics, meaning that a bear, a hare and a frog are all suggested as potential options. Finally, mummy and baby are reunited, but in a final twist it seems as though it won’t be too long before the whole process is repeated…

Once we’d read this story, the children created their own pictures of their mummies, but with deliberately ‘unusual’ features:

IMG_5196As always, the gluing and felt-tipping proved to be a hit and the added bonus of a quick refreshment stop for juice and biscuits kept everyone smiling 🙂

For our final story, I revisited ‘Open Very Carefully: A Book With Bite!“, by Nick Bromley, illustrated by Nicola O’Byrne (published by Nosy Crow) and did the same thing as I did at C’s pre-school on World Book Day (you can read all about it here) with a huge crocodile soft toy and lots of interaction, which the book so brilliantly encourages.

I had a totally awesome time and came away brimming with super duper story sparkles, but still with more thoughts on the future of Story Seekers.

All the children who came were those of friends, so even thought they seemed to enjoy themselves I think that their parents (being thoroughly lovely human beings) would have brought them along to support the cause in any case.  Having said that, they all braved the snow and bitterly cold temperatures to be there and I am incredibly grateful to them.

Talking through it with M afterwards, he made me admit to myself that I had subconsciously avoided doing much publicity for the event.  There were posters up in the shop itself and I put a poster up at C’s pre-school, but otherwise there was nothing.  I realised that I had been holding back on sharing it because it’s clearer to me now that the sessions themselves, while VERY fun to do, are not necessarily that similar to how I’d run my (at-the-moment-totally-hypothetical) Story Seekers sessions.  This is mainly due to the completely understandable limitations of the venue itself, but I know that I’ve been worried that people might come along and judge me and the future of Story Seekers on what they saw.

If the sessions were proving really popular then of course I would keep doing them, as I still think it would be lovely to support the shop and to get as many children enjoying books as possible.  However, I now don’t feel as though I am learning a huge amount more from each session and if attendance remains this low then it’s not as though the shop is going to miss them either.

I will obviously fulfil my original commitment and run the final session – for babies – in April, but beyond that I am now thinking about how I could some sessions elsewhere.  There is a local cafe that is potentially looking for someone to help with some storytelling sessions (though I can already foresee childcare issues with the timing of that one) and I am keen to see if I can volunteer within the children’s section of our local library, as well as getting in touch with local children’s centres about some one-off sessions.

I suppose I feel bad to even think about giving up on the sessions and ideally I’d like to do some market research to find out why people didn’t attend – clearly there are very different implications for Story Seekers if the reason was that a lot of people would *never* attend a storytelling session, rather than if it was just because Sunday mornings weren’t a good time for many people.

Anyway, at the moment I’m focusing on what a lovely time I had on Sunday and how much I enjoyed sharing great books with grinning children.  There’s GOT to be a way for me to do this with more people, I just need to get my chin up and stick my chest out and find out what that way is!



  1. The session sounds rich and rewarding! Re the numbers, and money, when it comes to Story Seekers, were you thinking of it being a drop in, pay as you go model, or a pay in advance for a whole series? (even if just a mini series eg 4 weeks) This weekend’s weather is bound to have played some part. Are there any venues where older kids are doing something else, but younger kids are brought along and a captive audience? For example a music school at the weekend? I know at J’s ballet lessons on a Saturday morning there are lots of siblings hanging around with their parents whilst another one has ballet – this could be a ready made audience.

  2. Damyanti · · Reply

    The session sounds fantastic & I don’t doubt you will find a way to encourage more people to come along. I love the idea of getting in touch with the local library, I know their fri morning rhyme time is really popular as always busy when we go.

  3. I think Zoe’s idea is excellent re entertaining siblings. When you say you have different ideas for a Story seeker session – how would that differ? I think in really pinning down the different aspects of the Story Seeker session you’ll get a better idea where you want to take them, as it is different to plan for Story Seekers on the basis of doing something different. Do you want to be more of an oral story teller, or is it the books that enthrall you?

    I used to take my children to a lovely weekly toddler group, where mums, dads & caregivers stayed with children for an hour as we moved from table of toys to table of toys, or train track or wendy house, & then we had a wonderful 20 min-30 min coffee break whilst the lady who ran it took children aside and told them stories and sang songs. The whole thing lasted a couple of hours, was a highlight of the week, as it involved toddlers having fun with parents & other toddlers
    AND parents meeting each other and having a break whilst the toddlers had stories. Is that the sort of thing you mean? A sort of story led half way house between nursery & mother and toddler group? I think there is a real need for that.

  4. I agree that teaming with a local library is worth investigating. The one story session available at mine is always sold out and it seems that there’s an audience for one daily but clearly staffing levels don’t allow for this. Great idea Zoe has about catering to siblings. I’m really interested to hear how it all develops for you. It’s something I’d love to explore myself but need to get a certain someone in school full time and a business idea off the ground before I can go there! Please keep us posted.

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