When the time comes each evening to read my niece a bedtime story, I ask her to choose her favourite. I already know the answer because nine times out of ten, it's the same, The Gruffalo.
She really loves that Gruffalo. Tucking her into bed, I suggest a few alternatives: What about Meg & Mog or a Maisy book?
She lowers her chin and frantically shakes her head. We've all been there. The book that comes out daily for months on end. You're on autopilot, stopping only when your child reminds you to do the 'proper' voices.
Breathing life into the bedtime reading routine feels like blowing up a punctured paddling pool without a pump. Hard work.
May is National Share-a-Story Month, an annual celebration of the power of story telling organised by The Federation of Children's Books Groups. This year's theme is 'A Place for Stories', with the idea being to encourage storytelling in unusual, but safe, places.
Inspired by this idea, I knew I could bring this book to life again. I wasn't sure how well this would work before bedtime, but with the weather on our side and a blanket thrown around us, my niece and I headed to the bottom of the garden to discuss The Gruffalo in a new light. So there we were, sitting at the bottom of the garden on a sunny Saturday evening, my niece's head on my lap and finger puppets on my toes. I suddenly felt invigorated by the story.
As a former primary school teacher, changing location is something I'd do often to maintain children's engagement. We'd have lessons outside on a summer's day and inside my classroom was zoned into different activity areas, interactive areas and 'thinking' areas.
Changing location is a well-known technique for stimulating creativity and an easy solution for keeping The Gruffalo exciting after so many months.
Reading to my nieces and nephews is a habit I have promised myself I will never give up. The benefits are enormous. Not only is it a tried and tested way to get children to relax (and hopefully fall asleep), reading aloud promotes listening skills, story telling helps children make connections, it reinforces creativity, imagination and imparts new knowledge with every turn of the page.
As a mother and teacher, turned toy hunter - I now run and manage an online store providing quality gifts for kids - I knew I needed to tackle my own weariness of this story.