19th March 2020

My name is Sven Wilson, and for the past 25 years of my life I’ve worked as a writer and editor on hundreds of publications, including many from media giants. I’m currently working as writer and editor for Storytime, the UK’s biggest story magazine. It was created by a good friend of mine with the aim of bring the wonder of reading to children, particularly reluctant readers. However, looking back, I might never have been able to follow this career path without the early intervention of a volunteer reading mentor.

Let me take you back to New Zealand, a few years ago (well, 40 years ago, to be precise). Phones were heavy things with rotary dials, televisions were great heavy pieces of furniture, and nobody had any inkling of what a ‘world wide web’ was. Back then we read physical books and wrote with pencils on paper, and to be frank, six-year-old me was struggling with both of these tasks. Fortunately, my teacher at Browns Bay Primary noticed this, and even more fortunately, there was a reading-mentor scheme at school. The mentor who was assigned to help me was the mother of one of my fellow students, who was doing so on a volunteer basis. I wish I could remember her name, but the passage of time has not done wonders for my memory.

I remember, though, how she calmly and patiently took me through the process of reading, word by word, then sentence by sentence and page by page. The individual attention did wonders for my ability to focus, and my reading improved by leaps and bounds. For completing a page I was given a reward: a picture cut out of a magazine with special scissors that gave the edges a zig-zag pattern.

It wouldn’t be exaggerating to say that the one-to-one support made all the difference to me becoming a confident reader. Less than a year later, my teacher began reading us CS Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. I was entranced by that book, and with my new skill at reading, I immediately tracked down the sequels of my own initiative and devoured them. My transformation into a voracious reader had truly begun. From that point on, I did well at school, earned a couple of degrees, and have gone on to pursue a fun and fulfilling career in publishing. Now, when writing for and editing Storytime, I always try to provide that same sense of wonder and excitement I experienced while reading the works of CS Lewis.

We create Storytime with reluctant readers in mind, and make sure each issue contains a variety of stories to suit all tastes – from classic fairy tales, myths and legends to new and original stories set in the past, the present, and the future.

Most of our stories are in the 3-8 page range and take between 5 and 15 minutes to read to a child, with vivid original illustrations. We know that reluctant readers find the magazine format to be less intimidating to novice readers than books, and also that after a year of receiving Storytime the proportion of reluctant readers spending 15 minutes or more reading increases from 36% to 63%. Even better three-quarters of our readers say that they enjoy reading more too. Hopefully, Storytime is useful source of reading material for volunteers and their readers alike.

Storytime is also a lot of fun to create, and we put a lot of love into every page. Still, I might never have had the opportunity to work on it, were it not for my classmate’s mother providing support and guidance as I took my first halting steps toward literacy.

A big thank you to Coram Beanstalk and all your volunteers – you make a huge difference!

For more information about Storytime, please visit their website - https://www.storytimemagazine.com/