Monday, 21 January 2019

Helping young children create stories by Jane Clarke

Next week, it’s National Storytelling Week in the UK - and I’ll be out and about in local libraries and primary schools - sharing stories and helping children to create their own.

We will have a lot of fun. Of course, there are lots of ways to do this, but I like to set up a scenario appropriate to the children’s age, brainstorm it, and run with what ever they suggest, if necessary nudging it along by asking them questions and making suggestions that can be silly or surreal.


What does your teddy bear get up to when you’re not looking ?

This teddy bear snuck out in the dark to ride a shadow duck.

Think of your favourite animal. Now give it a problem…

This giraffe got marooned on a desert island, but was rescued by pirates and fell in love with a piratical parrot

What would happen if you woke up and you/your mum/dad/brother/sister/teacher had turned into or been replaced by  eg. a monster, a giant, a dragon?
or a giant bee who made everyone collect pollen for her. The school filled with pollen, it made everyone sneeze (shouts of ATCHOOO)  and the noise frightened the giant bee so she buzzed off.

What might you see… if you took a rocket into space … a submarine under the sea ….go back in the past and discover a new dinosaur?

warning - not every story will have a happy ending! 

The stories that are created won’t be at all polished, they’re likely to lack internal logic, a proper beginning or end, and they will often owe a lot to whatever cartoons the children are currently watching on TV or books they are reading. But they will be full of fizz and it’s wonderful to see how excited the children get as they think up their story.

‘it makes me happy, like I’m eating watermelon and my head is filled with rainbows’  said the illustrator :-)

And that’s a great reminder of what can get lost in the rigours of creating a story for publication. So if you’re writing picture books take a storytelling break next week - eat some watermelon, fill you head with rainbows, dump your internal censor/editor and have fun!

Jane’s latest picture book, Leap Frog, illustrated by Britta Teckentrup, will be published in the UK on February 7, 2019


  1. Thank you Jane! I agree, sometimes its nice to to have a bit of a break from your internal editor and just have fun with writing!

  2. This is such a lovely post! I love the comments under the pictures and I want to know more about what happened with the teddy and the shadow duck (I think I've just worked out what a shadow duck is! Not quite as surreal but still great). This is just what I needed to read -and look at- this morning. I hope to have as much fun at my school visit tomorrow! Thanks again.

  3. Good sound advice Jane. Thank you

  4. Lovely post. When I teach 'Story Sacks' in schools I get the chidlren to use the 5 x Ws and H to write a story. You're right these stories aren't fully rounded, they often feature characters from their favourite book or film. But there's been occasions when I'm told the following week that they shared their story with anyone who was sitting still long enough. Exactly what I want, them excited about writing and reading.

  5. This really made me smile. Thanks, Jane! Intriguingly, I've noticed some classes (within the same school) are much better at coming up with imaginative ideas than others. Have you noticed that too?

    1. I have, and I suspect it has to do with how willing the teacher is to engage with surreal ideas.