Another Story Seekers update

Today, a new email came through from Picture Book Den – a great blog to which I subscribe.  The posts are written by a group of children’s authors based in the UK and Ireland and they’re always fun to read, as well as (for me) being really useful and informative.

Today’s feature was written by Malachy Doyle, who was sharing his experiences of reading to pre-schoolers at the recent Humdinger Festival in Derry.  You can read his post here.

Two main things have come out of this post for me.

1)  I loved reading about how an author feels when reading to young children.  One of the key things I’d like to focus on with Story Seekers is engaging very young children – and their families – with reading.

It’s not that I have any aversion to older children or that I don’t *want* to work with them, but I think that slightly older children have more of a chance of being exposed to good books and reading once they start school, though I fully appreciate that this isn’t always the case and I also understand how pressures to meet targets can make things difficult for even the most wonderful schools and teachers.  I’d really like to focus on how to help children and families read together at home (which I know lots of people do already – I really don’t want to sound critical or preachy).

There are very different challenges to be faced when reading with real teeny tinies and Doyle’s post details some of these.  I know that even as a confirmed bookworm, I felt a bit lost about which books might be best to read to the boys when they were babies and I certainly didn’t have enough energy to start researching how often I should be reading or when I should be doing it or the benefits it could have.

Luckily, I blundered on regardless because *I* love books so much and at the moment that seems to be rubbing off on the C and H as well.  However, I have since read a lot of research about what a positive effect reading to children from the moment they’re born can have, which is part of the inspiration behind setting up Story Seekers.

I love how Doyle wasn’t bothered by children getting up, wandering around and clinging on to his trousers.  Coming from a teaching background where I read with children of upper primary school age, it was quite an eye-opener for me to realise that C and H could easily follow a story and be engaged by it even if they got up and started dancing half way through.  I’d love for Story Seekers’ sessions to facilitate parents being comfortable with this, so that when they’re at home they feel there are many ways to read stories together successfully and that it doesn’t always have to be about sitting quietly at bedtime.

2)  Thanks to the post I have discovered Dog Ears, the children’s media company who ran the festival.  They obviously did a fantastic job of running the event and they seem to be doing other excellent work in the field of children’s literature and entertainment as well.  While I don’t think I could to set up something on this scale in my local area yet (though I guess there’s nothing wrong with dreaming big…), they are inspirational in the sense that they have only been up and running for a couple of years but have already achieved so much.

I am slowly coming to terms with the fact that I won’t be able to achieve everything all at once and that I need to remember this:

“Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good,” (inspired by Voltaire, from Gretchen Rubin’s ‘Happiness Project’).

In other words, just because I feel I couldn’t create something like the Humdinger Festival straight off the bat (it was Dog Ears’ inaugural event – WOWSERS!) it shouldn’t put me off taking small steps towards my goals in the meantime.  Maybe, just maybe I’ll surprise myself and do more than I ever expected, but I certainly won’t get far if I put off starting because I can’t make everything perfect immediately.

So, my next steps are;

– To really get my bottom into gear with starting this local FCBG group I keep mentioning, as I think that will give me lots of ideas and guidance for many aspects of Story Seekers.

– To get set up with volunteering at my local libraries (childcare permitting) as forging links here will hopefully be worthwhile.

– To think more about my very kind and lovely friend’s offer of running some Story Seekers sessions as part of the playgroup with which she’s involved.  I had some really interesting Twitter chats yesterday with @playbythebook and @BookhappyLtd about the different models they have each used to get their own projects and businesses underway and it’s good to be reminded that there’s more than one viable approach.  I have to bear in mind that I need to make money from Story Seekers (the business, not this blog) once H starts school.  This means that I need to be conscious of how any voluntary work that I do now could impact upon the potential for paid work in the future (and there are both positive and negative side effects).  I blogged earlier in the week about whether it was going to be worth continuing with the Oxfam storytelling sessions and some of the same points will hold true if I run these playgroup sessions, but they are a different proposition in terms of the venue and the fact that there would be a guaranteed audience.

That should keep me going for a while!




  1. I think one thing the volunteering has given me which I didn’t mention on twitter is a huge bank of experience of particular books and activities – so I can feel much more confident going into a paid position, knowing that ideas / book combos have worked. It’s also helped me budget hugely – I’ve become much better at working out how much I can / should / would like to spend on resources, from paper and glue through to soft toys, and even the books themselves.

    Glad to hear you’re brimming with ideas – it’s inspiring for me!

  2. I enjoyed reading about this and must check out the website you mentioned. Malachy Doyle wrote one of my daughter’s favourite books – The Dancing Tiger. It’s totally beautiful and she dedicated herself to memorising it after the first reading. I am following your posts with interest on all this engaging with the community and with children as it’s something I really want to get into. I’d like to work with children of any age but have a particular interest with older primary school children who, for some reason, have not engaged with literature. I am not sure how to reach out to them except through a school – I did some work in my daughter’s school last year with this. Eventually though I would like to do this more as a job than as a voluntary role. But I wasn’t sure if I needed to qualify as a teacher! Anyway, please keep posting about your experiences as they’re fascinating.

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