Blog: How to develop story telling sessions that help the families you work with (PART TWO)

Part one of this series, ‘Why sharing stories matters and the benefits of reading for families’  , delved into the amazing benefits of reading and story time for children and their grownups. But, in a world where bright and interactive screens can be hard to compete with, how do we go about encouraging families to develop a culture of reading for pleasure?

Here are some of our favourite ways to role model reading together with fun, engaging and replicable story times for families. Taken from our recent Ideas Box workshop called ‘Sharing Stories’, these resources, tips and ideas will help you choose the perfect book, plan a fun and engaging activity, and inspire families to read at home.


How to choose the right book for story time

Choosing a great book that will engage and interest your families is the most important step to a successful story session.

Bookfinder is a great place to discover the very best kids' books: magical mysteries, astonishing adventures and fantastic facts. Simply choose an age range, pick as many themes as you want to search through thousands of book reviews, and get reading.

The 2022 Read for Empathy collection features 60 books for 4-16 year-olds, each chosen to empower an empathy-educated generation. CLPE's free booklists support your literacy curriculum and celebrate special days and events. Curated by their librarian and expert teaching team, the booklists cover a range of themes and curriculum subjects from Early Years to Year 7.

A picture really can be worth a thousand words, and stories don’t always need to rely on language to be shared. Wordless picture books, or illustrated stories, let readers explore illustrations to discover narratives, while inviting them to become the author of their own tale. These books are ideal for families with limited language or reading skills. Book Trust’s list of wordless picture books for children aged 3-12+ is a great place to start for inspiration. If you’re unsure on how to get started, have a look at Scottish Book Trust’s advice for sharing wordless picture books with children and families.

Don’t forget to spend some time reading and exploring the book on your own. Knowing the story and illustrations well will make it much easier for you to share the story with families.


How to encourage engagement by linking activities to your story time

Stories provide a fantastic stepping off point for countless activities. Take the time to build in an activity before and after you share your story. Activities before a story can increase engagement and pique families’ interest, getting everyone ready to listen. Planning activities for after your story time can link games, crafts, and creative opportunities to give children the chance to explore what they have learned through the story.
The British Library’s ‘Discovering Children’s Books’ site is bursting at the seams with creative activities you can do with families. Why not cook up your own fairy tales, make a miniature book, or even create your own comic strips.

World Book Day is one of the most well-known annual celebrations of reading. While the celebration only happens once a year, the World Book Day website provides a huge bank of resources and ideas all year round! There are lots of resources to inspire you, from book prescriptions, to organising a book club in your setting.

Whatever activity you choose, remember to make sure it is accessible for everyone, encouraging parents to get involved and lead the activity with their child.


How to encourage families to share stories at home

The real benefits of reading for pleasure come from regularly spending time reading. Here are our top tips to encourage families to develop a love of reading together, wherever they may be.
Access to great books is a big barrier for a lot of families. The Local Library Services search can help families to find their nearest library service for free access to unlimited books. Get in touch with your local library service, they would love to hear from you and can often arrange for someone to come to your setting to meet families, help them apply for their library cards, make them feel comfortable and prepared for their first library visit.

Sharing resources with families is a good way to remind them of all the great things they have seen you do and show them how to create their own magic moments home. This article, 10 tips on how to share stories with children, is a great place to start. Additionally, sharing top tips from parents, will let them see how other families are incorporating reading in to home life.

Words for Life from National Literacy Trust is useful to share with families and as a resource for practitioners. It’s packed with activity ideas sorted by age group. This includes handouts with developmental milestones, ways to play with children to support their learning and love of reading, and easy to do at home activities.


Extra support for family practitioners

We run regular events with subject matter expects to help family practitioners improve their community engagement.

Campaign for Learning’s recent Ideas Box: Sharing Stories workshop was packed with resources, tips and ideas to do exactly that. Check out all the story resources we shared at this event. 

To keep up to date with our work with families, sign up for our newsletter and tick the relevant box.

John Beattie is Deputy Director (Families) at Campaign for Learning.