Kids asking for a ‘real’ story is an all-too-common request at bedtime. Many parents will have experienced that desperate feeling of trying to scrabble around with anything that comes to mind to make up a halfway decent story, after a long day and when we’re not at our creative best. But ‘real’ stories are from the heart and can be so much better than those stored in the fairy tale books. It’s these stories where the magic happens as they allow you to grow in the esteem of your child and can really impart some tailored parental wisdom and guidance.

Parents have some amazing stories to tell – here are a few ideas for inspiration:

Personal stories: like scrapes you got into as a kid, what your school, parents, friends were like and what you got up to. Also provide lots of true life anecdotes that you can embellish and repurpose for various occasions. What happened when you were naughty? How did you learn to do…XYZ? Were you ever scared of the dark?

Tell their story: Every kid will be interested in their own birth story and milestones they’ve achieved. Or how about a prophetic story about what you imagine for their future. Or make them the hero of their own story?

History: Horrible Histories is one of the most popular book series in the library as real stuff is generally more fascinating. For example, did you know that in every church yard in England there is a grove of Yew Trees? Yews are the trees of the dead but also the best wood for making the famous English Longbow which was the most effective weapon against the French and the most powerful medieval weapon. It was said that all Englishmen were bound by decree to teach their sons the skill of archery. You see the English had not only perfected the crafting of longbows using yew wood, but they had a technique for drawing the bow back and then squeezing their shoulders together that extra bit and expanding their chest so that upon release the force would be increased and the arrow would fly further and pierce armour with such force as to knock a man to his knees. This was most famously demonstrated at the battle of Agincourt (1415). Cool ‘eh?!

Think how you can link things you used to love as a kid and update them for yours.

A fellow parent, Clive Woodall, was a supermarket worker and his life has been transformed following the publication of his first novel, One For Sorrow. Now a UK bestseller, the book started out as a bedtime story for his two young sons and spent several years being shuffled back and forth in the slush piles of publishers’ unsolicited manuscripts. But it is now hugely successful, so much so that the film rights have been bought by Disney in a million-dollar package.

Who knows where your exploration of stories within you will lead? A bestseller perhaps?

Uncovering a bit of courage in you that you can use to inspire your kid? Learning more about the how and why? Or righting through the telling, something that needs to be reworked – the director’s cut of a situation where failure can be the pathway to something greater! But one thing is for sure, you will forge a closer relationship with your kids and establish yourself as a trusted, wise and funny parent!

There is also so much you can add when reading a story from the shelf, especially the ones the kids want to hear again and again.

To bring the story to life, why not try:

Different characters voices. This can be something you play with. Try contrasts – instead of a big scary voice, what about a timid dragon or an absent minded bear?

Identify where there is a build in tension and then use a rising tone to create it

What were your favourite books as a kid? Share them with yours.

True story: When Alice Ozma was nine years old, she and her dad Jim, a kids librarian, decided to see if he could read aloud to her for 100 consecutive nights. On the hundredth night, they shared pancakes to celebrate but it soon became evident that neither wanted to let go of their storytelling ritual. So, they decided to continue what they called “The Streak.” Jim read aloud to Alice every night without fail until the day she left for college, 3,218 nights. The Reading Promise: My Father and the Books We Shared by Alice Ozma & Jim Brozina is a collection of reminiscence about the precious time they spent together – reading.

There’s nothing like breaking down classics like Treasure Island and Black Beauty or the Beowulf and Oliver Twist into episodes to be continued each night.

It’s also an idea to share the reading; you read a page and then they read a page or a paragraph. It’s a great way to encourage kids to read.

Storytelling is such a magical and special experience for both parent and child so go forth and get creative!

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