Saturday, June 20, 2009

Story Sacks

I looked after a friend's little boy yesterday and thanks to him made a discovery ... story sacks. N is four and in his first term at school - afternoons only - so we did the school run with him, and it turned out that Friday was story sack changeover day.

Story sacks are a simple idea for sharing books with young children, and were originally conceived as a way of helping and encouraging adults who might not otherwise do so to read with their children. Since then the project has expanded and many schools now use story sacks, often supported by local community groups who put the bags together. They can also be bought prefilled like these, which I think are the ones used by N's school. This description comes from the Literacy Trust:

A story sack is a large cloth bag containing a children's book with supporting materials to stimulate reading activities and make shared reading a memorable and enjoyable experience. The sack contains soft toys of the book's main characters, and props and scenery that parents and other adults can use with children to bring a book to life, even if the adult's reading skills are limited. The sack might include a non-fiction book on the same theme, an audio-tape of the story, a language-based game and a short guide containing questions to ask, words to consider and other ways to extend the reading activity.
As N swapped his story sack, I got to see two with completely different themes - Jack and the Beanstalk, and Numbers (based on a book of the rhyme "This old man, he played one..."). The numbers bag contained the nursery rhyme book, Usborne's First Book of Numbers, a number matching puzzle, a CD with number based songs, and a glorious old man soft toy with ten numbered pockets in his coat, each holding one of the items from the song. Jack and the Beanstalk had the story, a non-fiction book about beans, a bag of beans, a board game and soft toys of Jack, the giant and the hen. Each bag had an activity card with suggestions for parents to use with the child.

Seeing these two bags sent my imagination into overdrive. While the swish, ready-made versions are prohibitively expensive for home use, story sacks would be very easy to put together at home and could be used in a number of different ways. Preschoolers are probably the ideal age, they but could work for a variety of ages, from board books for toddlers to chapter-book based sacks for older children. They could be based on an individual book or a theme.

After seeing Cherub's reaction to N's story sacks, I'm going to test a couple of home made ones out on her. I have a drawstring cloth bag that is just the right size, and a few ideas for contents.

Watch this space ...


Melanie B said...

Oh that sounds fascinating. I can't wait to see what you come up with.

Meredith said...

Me too, it's a great idea and so open ended depending on the age of the child and the focus. Thanks for sharing this!

Angela said...

We had a Church Awayday at which a group of us made a load of story sacks based on Bible stories for our sunday school. They've gone down really well.

Fe said...


I started doing workboxes with Puggle a little while ago, and I was _about_ to start with Bilby—this post has given me some _great_ ideas to put in some of her boxes over the week:-)