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Hey, The Guardian recently mentioned the Make-your-own-Monster Mega-Challenge event that I did at the Just Imagine centre in Chelmsford, Essex with fab friend and writer Steve Cole! There's a good section in it about story centres and the rise of them, (particularly as so many libraries are getting the government axe.. and yes, dear, we're still angry about that). I've been working with two of the story centres lately, Just Imagine and Stratford's Discover centre, both amazing places with loads of opportunities for kids, writers, storytellers, illustrators and more.





Here's a little index, if you don't want to listen to the whole thing:
8:50 - The Ministry of Stories Monster Store
9:45 - Just Imagine story centre
10:33 - Interview with Just Imagine founder Nikki Gamble (who also heads the huge Write Away book and learning material database )
10:45 - a bit about our Sarah & Steve show, with an inventive kid talking about his monster
11:31 - Interview with Steve Cole

Click here for the Guardian Books podcast.

Steve was asked, 'Why do you think there's a particular demand for these story centres?' and his response was a good one. (Steve's often been a good spokesperson for getting kids reading and storytelling.)

We're living in a time where the media itself is changing, and the rise of e-books, and lots of bookshops are finding that sales are being channeled through websites rather than the traditional bookstores. I think people are realising that it's not just about selling books, it's about fostering a community of getting people into books, and into reading, into writing, and into improving those skills, and just encouraging them. I think it offers more of a way to reach out to a wider spectrum... Like, the smell of books! I mean, there's something so much more tangible about them in a place like this.

"I do quite a lot of school events, and you do get children who put their hands up and say, 'Can I go into a book shop wearing trainers? Do I have to wear smart shoes?' They have this idea that books are these dusty things and that all authors should be wearing dinner suits. I think just finding that actual writers are alive can be quite inspiring to children! I think a lot of them are sort of like, it seems a remote thing, they don't grasp it until you go along and talk to them about writing, and how EASY it is to come up with ideas for stories. And once you find the right story, that will hopefully start them off on a life-long love of reading and realising that it's not a chore, that it can be a lot of fun.