Discover a story centre you’ll long for in your own home town

posted in: Alex T. Smith | 7

As a final Last Hurrah of the Summer Holiday, M, J and I spent Saturday gone in the wonderfully inspiring Discover Centre in London. Part soft play centre, part adventure playground, part kids’ bookshop, part interactive kids “museum” with buttons to press, ropes to pull, and costumes to dress up in, Discover defies easy description. But the glue that binds all these different aspects together is stories, and in particular telling and playing stories together.

So you can imagine how we at Playing by the book were rather excited to be there!

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Various themed spaces include props to encourage creative play, and everywhere there are baskets crammed with books. You can sit and read, run about and play, explore, dance, and literally let your imagination run riot.

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We’d gone there to meet up with some fellow children’s book lovers: Read It Daddy, Polly from The Little Wooden Horse, Helen from Capptivated Kids, and Elli from Taking Words for a Stroll. We were truly a babble of book bloggers – in seventh heaven as our kids played wonderfully well together and we got to let down our hair a little too.

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There’s an amazing playground outside at Discover – exactly what all playgrounds should be like – with climbing frames and slides begging for stories to be told about them. Not just objects to burn up energy on, but characters in adventures to be played out. With plenty of nooks and crannies, outdoor musical instruments, shady spots and sun traps, why can’t all play spaces be this imaginative?

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As well as creating themed play spaces (some are permanent, whilst others change during the year), Discover hosts lots of visits by authors and illustrators, and none other than Alex T Smith, the brilliant creator of the Claude books (absolutely perfect for newly fluent readers, just moving into chapter books), as well as several gorgeous picture books including Primrose, Ella and Egg, was holding a session whilst we were there.

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Alex made me cry with the beautiful stories of how his Grandpa used to write stories for Alex, about what Alex’s toys got up to when Alex was at school. What a great inspiration! Then we all had lots of fun learning how to draw Claude, with Alex revealing several Top Illustrator Tips along the way.

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Alex was brilliant with the large crowd of kids and adults; if you get the chance to see him live, grab it with both hands!

I left really wishing that Discover could replicate itself across the land. Libraries, soft play centres, more conventional museums wanting to attract kids, councils thinking about creating public play areas could all learn a lot from Discover.

7 Responses

  1. This place looks fantastic. I wish that the idea could be duplicated all over!

  2. Oh I would love a place like this near by. Sounds heavenly! Someone start a traveling version please!
    Stephanie recently posted..Start Telling Your Own Stories Tutorial Series Part 2 – Getting Started

  3. Barbara, Stephanie, yes I really wish it could be replicated – such a great idea.
    Zoe recently posted..Discover a story centre you’ll long for in your own home town

  4. Fantastic write up and brill pics! Was such an excellent day out, I’m truly hoping that the Story Museum in Oxford ends up as fabulous as this and most importantly, as ACCESSIBLE as Discover Story is (after all, books and stories aren’t just for booky folk).

    Lovely pics of the kids playing and having fun, and such a fab day out.

    As I said on my post about it, Alex was a true superstar and it was fantastic hearing all about Sid, who sounds a lot like my Grandad Webb (he wasn’t much of an artist or writer but used to make the most amazing things for me when I was a kid – like matchstick churches and little farms and stuff).
    Truly inspirational and Alex is a brilliant ambassador for children’s books. If you ever get the chance to go and see him, do so!
    ReadItDaddy recently posted..Romping Monsters, Stomping Monsters by Jane Yolen and Kelly Murphy (Walker Books)

  5. I heartily second all your comments ReadItDaddy!
    Zoe recently posted..Discover a story centre you’ll long for in your own home town

  6. […] out this wonderful blog post by Playing By the Book on the Discover Children’s Story Centre in […]

  7. I’m coming to the conclusion that soft plays are just not enough any more. My kids are bored with them. If only someone local to me would do something like this. Or maybe some bookshops and soft plays could join together and try to attract more custom by bringing stories to life this way.
    Donna@MummyCentral recently posted..What would you throw in Room 101?

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