Storypockets: exploring memories of books

Child drawing
Category: Bookbug

Some of the most precious memories to do with reading are the earliest ones. How we begin to read stories is in and of itself an important story. It powerfully shapes who we are as learners, creators, questioners, and shapes the limits and direction of our aspirations. I’ve been working with Craigmillar Books for Babies for the last five years to help capture these early moments and help families celebrate them. In order to measure the difference the project was making to young families’ earlier experiences with books, we wanted to get away from the standard evaluation questions that can often seem judgemental and intrusive, i.e. 'are you reading to your child at bedtime?' 'How often do you read to your child?' Instead, we wanted to open a window on how rhymes and books were part of families lives on their own terms.


What we came up with is Storypockets. During the Storypocket workshops, children made a book with pockets in which drawings of favourite stories and puppets of best-loved characters could be stored. It’s a very simple design that provides enough of a frame to invite creative playful interaction, whilst leaving open scope for families to choose, be inventive and make it their own. We’ll be discussing our experience of storypockets as an evaluation tool, as a means to start a conversation, and as a playful way to encourage very young children’s creativity and communication at an event at Edinburgh International Book Festival on 15 August. As well as telling the story of the development of the tool, we will share resources and leave ample time for discussion.  

Scottish Policy for the early years encourages a strength-based, co-production approach. One of the things that surprised us about Storypockets is that it meant children under three actively became involved in the conversation and told us what they remembered, and what they treasured about the books, rhymes and stories depicted in their storypockets. The tactile dimension was absolutely crucial to this happening. We think children constructing a picture of their life and taking an active role interpreting that picture is an instance of co-production in action, and an approach which celebrates and encourages families' strengths. We’re looking forward to talking with others taking this work forward at the EIBF event and beyond.

A special event to mark the publication of the research which used the Storypockets approach was held at the Scottish Parliament in June. Information from this event and the research report are available here.

Beth Cross

Dr. Beth Cross is currently Sr. Lecturer in Community Learning and Participation at University of West of Scotland, Hamilton.