This weekend I have the pleasure of interviewing Graham Davidson and Emily S. Smith about their new, large-scale project, Storytime Lane, described as an ‘out-of-the-box, one-stop shop’ literacy resource for young children, their parents and educators.
Storytime Lane will be a multi-media approach to storytelling that encompasses a YouTube channel showing regular storytelling webisodes, a corresponding website with free resources and activities, and an online store where adults can purchase the stories found 'in the lane.'
You can view a teaser of the project here: https://vimeo.com/240103462
Q.Graham and Emily, how did the two of you meet and when/how did you come up with the idea for this project?
GRA: When I turned up to my first children’s writers’ group meeting, Emily was the only other one who was early, and we pretty much hit it off from the word go, both of us having a bit of an off the wall sense of humour.
It amazed me from that first meeting how Emily is almost like a contemporary Dr Seuss, able to turn out funny rhyme after funny rhyme … I refer to her as the rhyming factory these days.
EMILY: We met almost 2 years ago through the Hunter Writers’ Centre Children’s Writing Critique group, but the concept of Storytime Lane came about 6 months ago.
As an early childhood educator, I have always loved storytelling, and using various avenues to tell engaging stories for young children. I created a YouTube channel where I used self-made sock monkeys to tell stories for the children at my work (although this extended out to people from all over).
Graham had seen these very amateur videos and was very enthusiastic about the idea of visual storyelling. We got together and brainstormed some ideas, and Storytime Lane was born.
Q: What got each of you so interested in literacy issues?
GRA: I think when you become a parent, the importance of children’s literacy really hits you. It’s been interesting watching my own children’s approach to reading over the years. The daughter became a prolific reader from very early on and devours books like most kids devour lollies, whereas my son has never had much interest, so struggled with his early years at school. I came to realise from that experience the importance of encouraging kids to focus on the story aspect of books, so they can feel excited when they pick one up about what they may discover inside.
EMILY: I have always loved reading, right from the time I was very young. I realise now that I was very lucky to have been raised in a household that valued reading, one where I was exposed to picture books and storytelling from a very early age.
Throughout my career as an early childhood teacher, I have come across so much research that has stressed the importance of developing literacy skills and a love of literacy in the early years. It is clear that poor levels of literacy can have detrimental effects not just on the individual, but on society as a whole. Children who do not develop reading skills are on a lifetime trajectory of limited educational achievement and limited employment opportunities. As an educator, I feel like I have a duty to do whatever I can to help children develop a love of reading and an interest in literacy.
Q. What different skills and interests do each of you bring to the project?
GRA: Forty years working as a creative professional in advertising has left me with a diverse visual skill set. Much of that time has been spent animating and illustrating, which has obvious benefits when approaching children’s literacy. My understanding of marketing principles also has benefits with regarding encouraging kids to want to explore the world of books. I’d much rather use my talents to get kids excited about books than sell tyres or furniture to their parents.
EMILY: I think we are really lucky in this collaboration because our skills and interests complement each other so well for what we are trying to achieve. I feel very lucky to be working alongside Graham who brings a totally different element of creativity to the project.
I have spent the last 15 years of my life learning about early childhood education, and then implementing this knowledge in long day care settings. This has meant that I have had the joy of spending many hours engaging with young children, reading picture books, creating puppet stories, engaging in dramatic play, and learning about the interests and humour of young children and what makes them tick. There have been many times when parents have come to collect their child from care and the child has insisted that they stay to listen to the end of my story or puppet show, so I guess that means I’m doing something right. People have said that I’m an energetic over-actor, which young children really seem to appreciate.
I also love books and the English language in general. Picture books that rhyme have always been a favourite of mine, and so the majority of stories that I write (and read) are rhyming ones. There is so much learning that can take place through exposure to and interaction with rhyme and rhythm. I’ve found that these kinds of stories are also more memorable to the children- it’s amazing how much of the text they can recall.
In Part Two of this interview, find out how Auslan will be incorporated into Storytime Lane, what resources and activities will be available and when we can visit!
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