Following on from the fab Zoe from ‘Playing by the book’, I’m really excited to be able to share my interview with Cate and Hannah from ‘Bookhappy‘.
Funnily enough, it was Zoe who first pointed me in the direction of Bookhappy and I’m over the moon that she did. Cate and Hannah are already building up Bookhappy to include many of the activities which I envisage being part of Story Seekers and their success really gives me the motivation to keep plugging away. Add to this the fact that they are so willing to share their experiences and offer support wherever they can and I can safely say that they’ve become my unofficial mentors!
In a nutshell, Bookhappy provides pre-school story sessions, school-based workshops and even children’s parties, all based on sharing a love of children’s literature. You can find out a bit more about their work here. They are always looking to take on new ventures and are open to taking their work in as many directions as possible.
Anyway, I’m really grateful to them for taking the time to let me pick their brains, so I’m going to crack on with the interview 🙂
1 – When and why did you start Bookhappy?
We started Bookhappy in March 2012. We were both at a time in our lives where we were thinking about how to take our careers forward and, as we shared a love of children’s literature, it seemed a good solution for both of us. We are passionate about getting children reading for pleasure, and we feel like our work fits in really well with what libraries and schools are doing. We offer something quite unusual and fun and we love doing it!
2 – What has been your biggest challenge when it comes to getting Bookhappy up and running? Any tips for overcoming it?
One of our biggest challenges has been learning business skills, because neither of us came from that background. We’ve been able to get lots of advice from the Business Factory on North Tyneside, and we’ve also networked through social media. There are lots of people who are prepared to help you out, especially if they can see that you have the determination to succeed. You also have to accept that it’s incredibly important to build up a good reputation, and that requires hard graft.
3 – How much (if at all) do you collaborate with teachers in the planning of your school sessions? Do they like to give input into book or activity choices or do you make your own decisions? How involved are the teachers once you’re actually at the school?
We don’t collaborate with the teachers at all! When schools book us, they can choose from a range of sessions, or ask for a bespoke session. Our work enriches what is already happening in schools, but also stands-alone. Many of our sessions tie into topics that schools already cover, but fundamentally, we are all about the love of reading for pleasure, so our sessions can be treated as entirely discrete. We really like teachers to actively participate in our workshops. It models good, readerly behaviour, and also helps the children to get the most out of our sessions.
4 – What are your dreams for Bookhappy over the next few years?
We want to expand what we can offer to schools, through after-school clubs and more schools workshop options. We’re also looking forward to working with our local library service. We want to be the go-to people for creative book-sharing activities in our area!
5 – One of my biggest concerns about Story Seekers is that I don’t let my enthusiasm for reading take over in a way that becomes off-putting or intimidating for parents, expecially given that one of the aims of the sessions will be for families to continue reading together at home. In the sessions you run outside of schools, how easy do you feel it is to engage with parents in this way?
We think that the more enthusiastic you are, the better. There’s something really nostalgic about recalling the books that you loved as a child, and people generally enjoy talking about them, we’ve found. Sometimes, there’s a need to be very sensitive about how you approach talking about reading because, of course, not everyone’s experience is the same. One of the best ways of engaging people in talking about books is to have lots available to flick and browse through. Cate, in particular, is very good at finding out what people like to read, and making recommendations. Talk about books you’ve enjoyed and you’ll find that people want to tell you about their own favourite reads.
6 – What makes a storytelling session really magical for you – as a listener or as a reader?
The best storytelling sessions are when the reader or teller draws you so far into the story, through voice and gesture, that you get lost in it! As storytellers and book-sharers, our favourite moments are when we can see that the children have been hooked in, because of the looks on their faces!
7 – Who or what inspires you?
Hannah: I’m often inspired by music. I am a musician, and we use music a lot in our own story sessions, so I’m always on the look out for interesting songs and sounds.
Cate: I’m inspired by the incredible authors and illustrators that are producing the fantastic range of books available to us. I took my daughter to see Julia Donaldson recently, and I also saw David Walliams speak – both inspirational in their own rights.
Thank you SO much again, guys. You’ve made me realise that my enthusiasm will be a strength in more than one way: in getting people on board with helping me; in engaging parents and children and in having the confidence to find my own way of sharing the message about the brilliance of books!