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‘Baby Goz’ author shares how his childhood love for stories has shaped his journey

Twinkl Digest caught up with Steve Weatherill, author of the picture book Baby Goz, reflecting on the role books and stories have played from his own early years to his career as an adult.

1 March 2023 7 minute read Lorelli Mojica Digest Content Writer – EYFS

The 2nd of March sees many organisations, settings and schools celebrate the wonder of books and stories.

To mark the celebration, Twinkl Digest was fortunate to catch up with Steve Weatherill, author and illustrator of much-loved books like Baby Goz and Lucy Goose, which have found homes in many early years classrooms over the years.

From being a young child to the successful author and illustrator he is today, different factors inspired Steve's love for stories. Twinkl Digest learnt more about how books and stories have played a considerable part in his life's journey.

As a young child, stories like the Just William series captured his interest and continued to inspire his imagination and curiosity for stories, but it wasn't just books that did this.

Stories at home

Different reading materials, like comics, played a part in his wanting to explore and express the need to tell stories for pleasure. 'My mum taught me how to read before starting school', he said. 'I began reading the Mickey Mouse comic… I began making up my own stories which, before I could write, began as a series of drawings like a cartoon strip.'

Stories from the library

His visits to the library as a child were another gateway to reading and discovery. With its treasure trove of accessible, inexpensive books, he cherished the library as a child, describing it as a 'source of inspiration'. Sadly library use among children has declined over time – a BookTrust survey found that 49% of participants from disadvantaged families were not members of a library. Steve reflected how, in his childhood, the library was a place that continued to feed his imagination, saying, ‘I did have some spells of illness when I devoured comics and books from the library.'

Stories in the environment

The outdoor environment and play experience also influenced his love for stories, 'As a child, I lived near the sea and played and acted out stories on the beach and cliffs, which fed my imagination.'

During his childhood, he didn't anticipate being a writer or illustrator when he grew up; he wanted to be an explorer with his pet dog, Charlie. Little did he know that his experiences from the environment, his play, the key adults around him and even his pets would help to shape his career path and his journey in storytelling.

Story journey inspired by educators

As well as his surroundings, the educators he’s known and met, both past and present, have sparked his drive and inspiration. Showing how influential key adults can be in a child's early years, Steve explained, 'The Headteacher at my primary school was a great inspiration to me and encouraged me in writing and illustrating stories'.

Stories shared in education settings

Now Steve Weatherill, an accomplished children's author, illustrator and cartoonist, has visited over 1000 schools and libraries with his story plays, sharing stories and passing on the inspiration just like he was inspired as a young child.

He also listed teachers, librarians, other authors, poets and storytellers that he encountered along the way amongst people that have also inspired him.

Stories that inspire adults and children

Steve has engaged young children and adults with his books and his storytelling skills. Pupils, educators, parents and even governors from the settings he's visited reflect a wealth of positive feedback. Amongst the many praises were those who said that his storytelling 'inspired', that he 'just magicked them into loving our library', and that 'children were buzzing talking about the visit'.

His infectious energy for storytelling and skill to relay his vivid imagination bounces on to young children he meets during visits to education settings. He reflected on his work sharing stories with children, 'Children never cease to amaze me. They often see things in stories I've not thought of! Funny things that they have done, jumping out of the Goz egg and ad-libbing when they are acting out the stories. It is always so rewarding to see they have followed up on drawing and making up their own stories after a school visit.'

His books, drawings, and story plays reflect his fondness for stories and touch the many who see, read, or watch his work. But with the many ways children can consume storytelling – oral, visual, written and digital storytelling, for example – some adults, parents, and educators might not feel so confident when telling stories to children (particularly when not behind the safety of a book).

Some adults may be hesitant to fully immerse themselves in the different ways to tell a story that doesn’t involve reading from a book. Barriers may include the worries of not being interesting enough to the children or not sounding right. However, storytelling in its many forms is a valuable experience to support each and every child.

Sharing his recipe for storytelling, he thinks back to what he enjoyed as a child and suggests:

He suggests to reluctant educators and parents, 'The more you do it, the more enjoyable it will become. The good thing about a live telling of a story as opposed to a recording is being able to add and ad-lib.' He adds, 'don't worry about trying to be like a celeb on a recorded story'.

Over the last decade, the way children consume stories has evolved. Audiobooks, story videos online and interactive story apps are just some that have flooded the story market. Reflecting on his thoughts about storytelling in the age of digital technology, he says, 'Technology is great, and children today are very fortunate to have it. It is a tremendous learning tool, but it can only do so much and can never replace a real live book or storytelling. Tactile books and lift-the-flap books are important for very young children. Something they can physically touch. Books can also be taken anywhere and don't need a power source. A machine telling them stories is not the same. They want interaction, to be able to stop and ask questions, make observations and suggestions and have a joke together'.

Steve shared that from his stories, he hoped that his audience would not only find them 'amusing' and 'encourage them to write their own stories and characters but also to 'look at answers to quite serious problems that humans have created through animals' eyes…and try to find solutions ‘that only they could think of’.

His latest plans continue to involve storytelling, with visits to one of his favourite schools as part of a national book event and new stories in the pipeline, including The Marys' Other Animals, a rhyming counting book, Too Bumpy for Bobby, The Animal XDrawdinary ABC.

Steve's journey shows how the power of people, places, interests and experiences can nurture a child's love to read, tell stories, and express their imagination.

Books and stories can inspire young minds way beyond storytime.

As an educator or parent, embrace and enjoy it, and as Steve says, 'Children love live storytelling and being involved in the story… the more you do, the easier it will become'.

Further Reading

The power of wordless picture books

Parents talk about: sharing stories

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