To most people the benefits of stories and reading are obvious; they can be a calming escape from reality, they can enrich the imagination and improve creative thinking, and they are one of the main nutrients that feeds our language learning.
And as if that wasn’t enough to make you stock up your library, here’s another sparkle, something special that stories and story telling provide…
Let’s take a look at my earliest memory, I was 2 years old, on a beach in Sennen, Lands End, sat there in my pushchair, watching my two older brothers. Their school was practising a masked dance about a folktale, for an up and coming festival. Their tribal masked faces and wonderful setting, with drum beats and chanting, the waves swooshing and sky hazily mixing together, it had imprinted such a wondrous memory upon my little head, I hope to never forget it. It wasn’t until I
grew up that I realised just how young I was at the time, I felt much more comprehensive than I’d imagined a 2 year old would be.
Obviously it wasn’t that moment alone that fuelled my creative fire which led to a life of writing and drawing, but these stories in life, these folktales, bedtime reads and book rich environments showed me the path, and set me on the right creative tracks.
More than this, the sparkle I promised earlier, stories opened my mind to the world and it’s wondrous people. And it’s this ‘open-mindedness’ that I believe is the key to a great childhood and wonderful upbringing.
Because the thing with stories is, each one talks a different talk and you learn one of the most valuable lessons in life: everyone, every kind of person, has troubles and triumphs just like you. So you grow up with a sense that your weakness are normal, and your strengths are stronger than you think. You are aware from a young age that you are unique and wondrous, that everyone is, so you learn to respect everyones differences, celebrate them even!
If children grow up in a world knowing these facts imagine how liberated they would feel and how determined they wold be, knowing that they had such value. And, when they did hit a low, they could and would bounce back, just like in the stories they’d read.
I know many people think fairy stories are hot air, babble bubble but every story has true origin, real roots, something real that inspires it.
Take my book Billy Bop Boo for example, a little boy alien, lonely, in search of a friend. I had the idea one night as I was sat on my balcony, looking up at the sky, wandering who was looking back at me. Was another little person, perhaps just like me looking up at Earth thinking the same, “Are we alone?”. Other worlds, life outside our little planet of green and blue. I didn’t know what I believed but I knew it was good to question. It IS good to open your mind, and of course your heart to other things, other truths, what may be. And for children that has never been more important. Stories are the key to opening our hearts and minds, the true teacher of empathy and that is why I love stories.