Stories are for everyone, young and old. They do many things – they entertain, they can distract. They help make sense of the world and our surroundings and they can explain things that might otherwise be difficult to put into words. Mostly, they are fun and stories read out loud can be some of the funniest and most engaging things you’ll ever hear. Storytellers can bring worlds to life, take you on a journey and leave you feeling relaxed, joyful, contemplative (or all of the above).
In today’s #StayingAtHome post, we’ll highlight some of our favourite local storytellers (some of whom you might recognise from events we’ve had in our libraries in the past), some of the authors who have made their work available online during this strange period and some other faces that you will probably recognise along the way.
Before we start, we do need to say that the websites featured are external websites so we are not responsible for content. We’d ask that you ensure you check the content of a video before sharing with your whole family to ensure you are happy with it. Content may also only be available for a short time so links may not work in the future.
Kate is a familiar face to many in and around Stratford and she’s taken her story telling escapades online via her Facebook page. Kate’s stories are often aimed at families and explore her love of books and the natural world.
John would have been joining us for sessions at Rugby Library and Leamington Library, bringing Roald Dahl’s ‘The Twits’ to life in a family story session. We’re sad that we have had to postpone John’s visit but hope to see him back in Warwickshire in the future. John posts videos of his stories on YouTube.
Pyn did a fabulous ‘Witches Brew’ session for us last year at Bedworth Library and is signposting to lots of different story tellers through her Facebook page. You can also see her tell the story of ‘The Elder Tree Witch here.
Richard has visited several of our libraries in the past and enthralled audiences with his stories. In this video, he reads ‘Polonius the Pit Pony’, a book written by him and illustrated by Feronia Parker Thomas.
If you visited us during last year’s ‘Fantastic Fun With Words’ festival then you will be very familiar with Wriggle Dance Theatre and their production of ‘Rainbowfish Goes Adrift‘. They have recently started a series of bite-sized dance sessions aimed at families with 2-5 year olds for all to join in with.
We’ve also worked with Motionhouse, a dance and live theatre group, in the past – they are known for their exciting performances and spectacular productions. You can view videos of their past productions and take part in dance classes on their YouTube channel.
John from Nuneaton Library has also been investigating what’s available out there and has the following to share:
Whilst the last few weeks have been worrying, it has also brought out the best in people – from volunteering for community support to showing appreciation for N.H.S. staff (with a good clap no less!); from singing in the streets, to football clubs raising money for scientific research.
Authors and illustrators are no exception; keyed into their audience, they know that families need to keep everyone entertained. What better way than with a book? The following are a small selection of author videos posted online.
Stay at Home Storytime is a growing set of picture book readings by Oliver Jeffers on his Instagram account (@oliverjeffers). You can watch them live at 6pm G.M.T. but do not worry about missing them, they are available on his website also. Jeffers has read favourites such as ‘Stuck’ and ‘The Heart and the Bottle’, with the latest reading being The Huey’s series in ‘None the Number’ and ‘What’s the Opposite’?
Over on YouTube, Cressida Cowell is reading the adventure ‘How to Train your Dragon’ in chapter videos, as well as having trialled reading two of her ‘Emily Brown‘ picture books. This is not the first time that Cowell has taken to the internet to help encourage children’s literacy – she took to the BookTrust channel to give baby book advice and to provide aspiring writers with a sneak peak of her “writing shed”. Advice, enthusiasm, dragons – keep a look out here for them all!
If your child is looking for a fun mystery series, head back over to Instagram for Mac Barnett (@macbarnett) reading ‘Mac B.: Kid Spy – Mac Undercover’ a chapter at a time. This funny spy caper takes you around the world – whilst slipping in historical facts as it goes.
Over on his website, you can find Jeff Norton reading chapters from his book ‘Alienated’ and will eventually read the entire book. Norton’s posting schedule is 7pm on weekdays, with the later time reflecting that the book is aimed at a ‘Young Adult’ audience. The story traverses school cliques, aliens, bullies, humour and saving the world – quite a lot from the comfort of your own home!
If the above are not your cup of tea, do not fret. More authors are adding their voices to their stories as we all spend more time at home – you just have to know where to look.
Keep an eye on social media sources such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and please share what you find with those that you know. YouTube is an obvious one, offering many different reading videos by authors or authorised parties.
If you find yourself flagging, here is one last video resource: World Book Day’s past Storytime Online collection. Otherwise you can always find eAudio books for all ages on BorrowBox; you just need your library card details.
For general learning, activities and stories, you can also find help on our Home Learning page. Enjoy and stay safe!
While Carla, who works in both Nuneaton and Atherstone Libraries, suggests the following:
Robert Lloyd Parry is an award winning actor and performance storyteller whose self-started theatre company, Nunkie Theatre Company produces ‘literary storytelling shows’.
A graduate in Classics from Oxford and former art historian, research associate and writer at Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, Parry is an expert in MR James. He has performed a one-man show as MR James since 2005, touring up and down the country. He appeared as MR James in the BBC Two Christmas Day special, ‘The Lost Ghost Story with Mark Gatiss’ (2013). Parry also performs stories by HP Lovecraft, HG Wells, and others, as well as giving storytelling tours of the Fitzwilliam Museum and the Cambridge area.
I have seen him and all his performances have been tremendous. I have even travelled to see him, and saw him perform in Leicester, Harrogate, and Hemingford Grey. Anything he does is going to be excellent.
You can find a selection of performances on his YouTube channel.
A number of celebrities/celebrity authors are also sharing either their own stories or reading other people’s. Our favourite so far is Dolly Parton whose ‘Imagination Library’ is sharing one story a week in videos entitled ‘Goodnight With Dolly’. The first story shared was ‘The Little Engine That Could’.
Tom Fletcher, member of the band McFly and author of numerous titles is also reading stories on his YouTube channel, starting with the hilarious ‘The Dinosaur Who Pooped a Princess‘.
And of course we shouldn’t forget CBeebies’ Bedtime Stories – there are many to choose from on BBC iPlayer.
It’s not just stories that are being shared – there are a wealth of activities available online from authors, story tellers and publishers. It can be hard to keep on top of all the information out there so here are a few of our picks (for others, visit our Home Learning page mentioned above or follow us on Facebook and Twitter as we’ll share our favourites there also).
The Booktrust ‘Home Time Hub‘ is worth spending a bit of time exploring as there are loads of things to discover for different ages. You’ll find links to Cressida Cowell’s readings along with quizzes, draw-a-longs with illustrators such as Rob Biddulph and competitions. There are also rhymes and songs for younger children and a book finder if you’re wondering what to read next.
National Literacy Trust
The National Literacy Trust have likewise bought together many resources in their ‘Family Zone’. There are ideas and activities for children from birth to 4 years old, 5 to 8 and 9 to 12.
You’ll find writing masterclasses and challenges set by many popular authors including Abi Elphinstone on the Authorfy website. There are 10 minute challenges set by authors including M G Leonard and lots of other things to explore when you sign up.
Authors and Illustrators
While there are many authors and illustrators we could flag up on top of all the ones we’ve already told you about, we’ll stick to a few extra:
Alex T Smith is the author of the brilliant ‘Claude’ books. Every day, he’s posting ‘#StoryStarters’ on Twitter to get you started with some creative writing prompts.
Lydia Monks – the illustrator of some of our favourite Julia Donaldson books including ‘Sugarlump and the Unicorn’ is hosting draw-a-longs on YouTube. We would love to see any of the drawings that you do!
Axel Scheffler – also well known for his work on Julia Donaldson books, not least ‘The Gruffalo’, Axel Scheffler teaches you how to draw the Gruffalo on the British Library ‘Discovering Children’s Books‘ website. It’s worth exploring this part of the British Library website as it is packed full of resources.
And in all this, we shouldn’t forget the grown-ups because stories are for everyone. We’ve already mention Robert Lloyd Parry who has several spooky and engaging stories for grown-ups. If musical theatre is more up your street, ‘The Shows Must Go On’ YouTube channel might be of interest. Various Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals will be featured and available to watch in full for 48 hours. The National Theatre at Home YouTube channel is likewise streaming stage shows with various performances available.
For a limited period, you’ll also be able to access medici.tv – a catalogue full of classical music, opera and dance. You’ll need your Warwickshire Library Card to log in.
We hope we’ve given you some pointers to start your explorations and keep you and your family entertained. There are lots more websites, videos and resources out there so let us know about any good ones you find.
As mentioned, some of these videos may only be available for a limited period and do check the content of each, especially if you’re sharing it with a younger audience.
Stay safe and well and happy story telling
ED, John and Carla.