How to tell a “Not-Book”.

There comes a moment when I have to confess to my son, in words he may not understand, that I truly can’t read another Thomas the Tank engine story with feeling or real commitment.

Sadly, this confession generally falls on tired, deaf ears – so I have come up with an alternative, and it has become part of the language of my family. We do a ‘Not-Book’ – of which there are two main variants (lights on or lights off) and a multitude of permutations.

We begin, as tradition dictates, with “Once upon a time there was…” but from there on in we are co-creators to often devastating effect. Sometimes I weave in elements of the day – what did we learn, what did we struggle with, how did we feel. Other days Superman is locked in deadly combat with a chicken named John for the arm of a Chinese princess named Jenny. Leo generally weaves in Batman and the names of various friends and inevitably they all live happily ever after. The journey flows with gasps and giggles and “do you know what happened next?” and there are often parts where one of us loses track of what went before. It is always an eye to eye story. Nothing is written down or recorded.  It is always shared space. We both love it.

I am determined that in my house stories won’t be just something mum reads to us in books. Stories aren’t what other people invent and we absorb. We are the stories – even though many of us have forgotten how to craft the narrative. Our roots sit around camp fires and talking circles. Our customs and histories were passed for far longer by word of mouth than by printed words, kindles and audiobooks.

Find your story again and learn to tell it. Start a dialogue.

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