It’s been a while since I’ve written a blog, mostly because I’ve been writing children’s books. How cool does that sound! I can now, finally, after 7 years, look people in the eye and say “I’m a children’s story writer” without apologising or trying to dumb it down immediately afterwards.
And of course, I’m a writer. An entertaining one. That’s why you lot keep looking me up!
I discovered, last week, after 7 years, that I’m also an expert in early years children’s literacy. I’ve been running a company that uses all the published data I have been able to lay my hands on to create a product which I know works because I’ve measured it*, and yet inside I still felt that if I was in a room with somebody who had an exam to their name, I wouldn’t have a right to speak up. My voice would be without resonance. My experience would count for nothing.
The only way to fight this was head-on. It’s taken 2 years, but I finally broke it last week!
Back in 2016, the amazing trustees of the Kingston Boys Club gave me a small grant to take the science that we feature in our stories and put it into a format where we can deliver it to parents. The essence of the talk is that, contrary to intuition, the early years are actually the most important in your child’s academic career. I present the evidence behind this, and then go on to demonstrate the madcap ways in which Story Storks delivers early years literacy, but most of all I inspire parents to go home and have fun with their kids – fun that will help to prepare their children for the day they go to school – but still fun!
I’m calling the project Story STARs
If I’d just got on with it, this project should have taken 6 months. I’ve had some health issues, but still, they shouldn’t have delayed me for this long. What delayed me was the lack of belief. I am a woman who dresses up as a wolf and chases kids around the room! Who on earth is ever going to take me seriously!
But I had the money. I had to do it!
So with fear in my heart, I set up the first talk with some of my customers who are really my friends. I spent two days shouting at the kids and my husband because I was so nervous. I arranged for their kids to be looked after by a nanny so they wouldn’t put me off! And then I delivered the talk – and they loved it. Or did they? Are they saying that because they’re my friends? Who knows, but I’d ticked a box.
I needed a bigger challenge, so I asked a childminder (another friend) if I could come and deliver the talk to her parents. She seized the opportunity and organised an evening event with wine and food! Then she passed the word on to her childminder friends, and they came in droves. Raquel organised professional development accreditation for the event. When I arrived, I had to sign certificates, like I’m an expert in something!
Knowing that childminders, trained early years professionals, were in the room listening to what I had to say gave me palpitations. These people are experts. My imposter syndrome was telling me to RUN RUN GET OUT OF THERE THEY WILL FIGURE OUT YOU’RE A NUTTER WHO LIKES PUPPETS. But I didn’t. I delivered the talk.
And they loved it. And I inspired them. But moreover, they inspired me, because I finally felt like people, and experts, wanted to hear what I had to say and they were encouraging me to get out there with my message and say it to as many people as possible. Some went further, and are in the process of putting me in touch with organisations who they believe should be hearing my message!
And finally, I am at peace with myself. Before this talk, I knew I knew stuff, but after delivering the workshop I now know that I KNOW stuff, with capital letters. Stuff worth knowing. And I’m owning that. I even had a T-shirt printed to prove it!
*We surveyed Story Storkers who are now at school and asked them how they were getting on with their reading. The main findings were:
- 85% of the children who have come through Story Storks are right where they should be or ahead in terms of their progression through the reading book scheme at school (50% were ahead).
- 100% of the children were motivated to read, whether they were good at it or not. No child was refusing to try because they know that stories are worth it.
- Elements of Story Storks are still being played out at home, in particular, the songs such as ‘Happily Ever After’.
- Both parent and child have shared & treasured memories from their time at Story Storks, most of them involving laughter.
- We didn’t just motivate the kids!
If you enjoyed this blog you may also enjoy
If you never want to miss a post then sign up to receive a copy of this blog direct to your inbox every time it’s published.
SARAH CANTRILL is a woman on a mission to inspire every young child to become a reader for pleasure. She is the Artistic Director & Founder of STORY STORKS, a social enterprise that delivers interactive story workshops to early years children and their grown-ups, that help kids to fall in love with stories and develop their early language skills meaning that they have an easier time of learning to read when the time is right. She is also passionate about helping and supporting parents through the early years and lobbying for a better understanding of them and the issues they present. Occasionally she also speaks up for the kids too!