Sticking with stories – magic of books builds confidence

As World Book Day approaches, literature will be at the top of the ‘to do list’ for many a panicked parent, trying to make or buy a creative costume.

But at Thatcham Family Hub, reading-related craft sessions for families with young children are running all year round, thanks to a partnership with the Dolly Parton Imagination Library, The Corn Exchange Newbury and Sovereign Housing Association. 

The monthly ‘Sticking with Stories’ sessions allow pre-schoolers to read books with session leaders and their parents or carers – and then act out stories, mould characters from playdoh, and take on crafting activities including making puppets, masks and other artistic creations.

The scheme is open to a wide range of RG18 postcodes, with free books also sent to eligible 0-5 year olds, via the Dolly Parton Imagination Library scheme.

Sessions take place on the last Wednesday of every month at the Hub on Park Lane in Thatcham and where families can book in advance or just turn up on the day.

Rachel Peters, Community Development Officer for Sovereign, said: “Sticking with stories is a great class, enabling the community to come together and nurture a love of books. The activities the classes offer don’t just help the children develop but, as Amy’s story shows, will help parents grow too. It is great to have been able to fund this community project and we’re working with the Family Hub and The Corn Exchange to support another year of the class here, as well as exploring the idea of piloting this class in other places outside of Thatcham.”

Thatcham Family Hub Manager, Sharon Pearce, said: “We’re really keen to encourage more families to come along and enjoy the sessions and sign up for free books from the Imagination Library. I’ve seen both children and parents really grow in confidence from taking part in the songs, crafting and reading – no one is forced to join in, but it’s a really safe, enjoyable space to learn to love literature.”

Becci Smith, Early Years and Education Officer, said: “Sticking with Stories is designed to boost confidence, creativity and imagination; to inspire a love of reading and story-telling and to bring literature to life! It’s so rewarding to see the children and adults engaging with the sessions and to be a part of making meaningful change in the lives of these families.”

CASE STUDY

Reading is for life, not just World Book Day

Aptly named mum-of-two, Amy Eggleton Read, found that the Thatcham Family Hub Sticking with Stories sessions gave her a real mental boost, after she struggled with overwhelming feelings of anxiety. She said:

“Having two small children close together in age can be hard to handle sometimes. My son is full of beans, a really lively boy who demands a lot of attention. My little girl is the opposite, sometimes just persuading her to get up and out of bed can be tricky. But on Sticking with Stories day she’s now up and about and dragging me out of the door! 

“When we started coming to the sessions six months ago it was really hard for me. I felt anxious about the thought of meeting new people and doing new things. I didn’t want to sing or join in. But the group has been really welcoming, and I’ve found that I really love doing the crafting with my children too. 

 “I’ve actually started volunteering at the Hub, helping with some of the other play sessions at the centre, as well as taking another class myself in how to make healthy meals on a budget. My little girl loves talking to me about the books we read together and every time we go to the park she remembers a different title, whether it’s the Gingerbread Man running by or Shark in the Park, it’s really sparked her imagination.

“And it’s sparked something in me too. I’ve decided to retake my English GCSE with a view to ultimately studying midwifery at university. I know it’s a long way from delivering play sessions at a hub to delivering babies, but I feel really proud of the steps I’ve taken to overcome my anxiety and I’d say a lot of that is thanks to the fact that we’ve been to sticking with stories.”