It’s National Storytelling Week in the UK, which is the perfect excuse to share this beautiful quote, written by AA Milne (father of our chum Winnie the Pooh) in the preface to Jean de Brunhoff’s The Story of Babar.
“If you who are grown-up have never been fascinated by a picture-book before, then this is the one which will fascinate you. If you who are a child do not take these enchanting people to your heart; if you do not spend delightful hours making sure that no detail of their adventures has escaped you; then you deserve to wear gloves and be kept off wet grass for the rest of your life.”
You can imagine my delight at first finding this passage, which so charmingly encapsulates all that I feel in my heart, that so many of us feel in our hearts, about the wonderfulness that comes with having an enthusiasm for life … and the terrible bleakness by contrast of being deprived of the real, honest sensations of being alive.
Dear me, that sounds terribly pretentious, whereas clever Mr Milne managed to make the same point and give it a funny, approachable twist! But you see what I mean: the point is to enjoy ourselves and let mind and body open up to whatever is offered, be it the imaginary adventures of an improbable elephant royal family, or the luscious feel of wet grass.
Here are 5 Storytelling Week ideas of which AA Milne would have approved (or so I like to think):
- If your child can read already, or even if they just like to look at pictures, build them a little tepee with a blanket strewn over two chairs. Fill it with books, a torch, and a small stash of biscuits. Hey presto, today’s reading adventure has begun! (Btw, reading in a tepee is surprisingly comforting even if you’re old enough for a mortgage, so don’t necessarily tidy it away in the evening.)
- Books are not only for bedtime! It’s ok to have one stashed under the buggy for a quick flick in the bus queue, or under an arm in the park, or even (heresy, I know) to just leave it lying around on an inconvenient spot on the floor to catch the eye of a passing nipper.
- As Pooh and Babar both well know, outdoor adventures do not have to be highly-organised affairs. Send a child out with a prop of some sort (fishing net, broom, saucepan … it really doesn’t have to be fancy), add fresh air and stand well back (cup of tea time, methinks) and just see what they do with their imaginations! Suddenly they’ve become their own storyteller and have embarked on a tale of pirates, imprisoned princesses, and escaped beasts!
- There’s a story all around us! People spotting is naughty but nice, even if you’re waist-high, so next time you’re out and about do point out the more interesting characters walking past … could they be Captain Hook in disguise?
- And just to get back to Mr Milne (or AA, as I like to call him) and his wonderful point about wet grass– next time it rains, do let your child dash out in bare feet … it can be rather fun.