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How to raise a little reader - the story of one pandemic brainwave

Updated: Feb 24

It's a challenging and constantly evolving year in which most of us are just happy to be putting one foot in front of the other. But, amongst our quietly, ordinary survival stories, we're beginning to hear of amazing creative bursts of brilliance. Parents who are not just parenting, but who are spinning magic, while the rest of us binge box sets and embrace our expanding waistlines. Today we're delighted to be able to share one such magic-spinner, Michaela Clowes, a secondary school teacher, who found herself creating new and ever more creative ways to entertain two year old Noah.

"Noah has always been read to. Every day at bed time we share a story, or two, sometimes three...okay one more but that’s it. I always felt this was more than enough, that a few stories a night was going to ensure a real love of reading in Noah and a pat on the back for me. As a secondary teacher, exploring a book meant analysing it. As a mum, play meant pouring out a box of toys.

As a teacher, my ideas often start with a book and it was the same for me with Noah’s activities

At first, the basket was just a way to store and collect odd bits around the house that could work as props for stories. However, this eventually evolved as Noah’s interest did. He began asking for his ‘basket’ and I

began thinking about how I could extend the ideas, the presentation of the basket and slowly started sharing my ideas with my friends who were in the same position. The first I shared was on nursery rhymes.

I looked on Instagram for ideas and had my eyes opened to an entire world of play - sensory, messy, educational, bookish play! A borrowed tuff tray and an Amazon shop later and our ideas expanded again. I emptied my cupboards of ‘sensory materials’ and tried creating our own little worlds.

I began to see that there was something of value here, something others might enjoy too. So I started my own Instagram account @story.baskets.for.Noah.

Often, I decide the books for each week in advance. Noah has a large collection, since growing my Instagram account I’m partnered with a wonderful book store littleotterbooks which has helped us grow our collection further. The ideas come to me randomly, I have a note on my phone full of them and I try to use as much stuff we already have at home as possible and focus on topics Noah’s interested in. For instance, Space and Construction are popular topics for Noah.

Other times our ideas are directly inspired by our favourite books. We have a particular love of Julia Donaldson. 

Finally, as Noah recently turned three, we have been exploring more ‘learning’ concepts in our baskets.

I’m back at work now and Noah’s back at nursery. The pandemic took a lot from everyone, but it gave us time and this wonderful opportunity to find new ways to play. We still try to do one or two baskets a week now. They take 10 minutes to make but give us a day full of enjoyment. I’m confident now that I’m raising a reader and that Noah will carry this love of books with him as he grows. If you would like to see more of our ideas, you can see what we share by visiting our Instagram". Michaela has arranged for Maggie & Rose parents to get 10% off any purchase in November with the code storybaskets10 at Little Otter Books. Michaela and Noah would also love to see any baskets you create!


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