Children’s Book Blog: Discovering stories in East London
Here’s a timely recommendation for any parents looking something fun (and sneakily educational) to do with the kids this Easter holidays: the ‘Discover’ Children’s Story Centre in Stratford, East London. You’ll find this little gem of a place just a stone’s throw from the Westfield Centre and the Olympic Park – and a visit here is a sure-fire way of getting reluctant readers interested in stories and storytelling.
The highlight has to be the indoor activity trail where you can do things like ford the crocodile-infested sparkly river, explore secret caves and scale magical towers, complete with slides and residents dragons. Dotted around the trail are countless fun opportunities to listen to stories and make up your own, including a mini puppet theatre and a machine that recounts tales in a variety of different locally-spoken languages, all at the push of a button. The outdoor trail, with its monster-themed slide, is equally enticing. And of course there are plenty of quiet, comfy corners where you can just curl up with a good book and read.
What this place manages to do really well is cater for children of all ages all under one roof. Babies get their own special room with lots of twinkling fairy lights to look at and furry blankets to snuggle up in, as well as daily sing-along and storytelling sessions with the Discover team. Children over 6 will be blown away by the recently-installed ‘Secret Agents’ exhibition in the basement, which gives them the chance to become spies for the day, following clues, cracking codes and helping to bring down the evil Dr Iscove. And there are also regular book readings and events with well-known authors, many of whom have supported Discover since it opened in 2003.
Almost everything you see in the centre has not only been designed for children, but also by children. New activities and exhibitions have to be given the seal of approval by a forum of local school children before they get the go-ahead – and quite rightly so, since children are clearly the best judges of what people their own age will be most excited and inspired by. This is perhaps why there are so many hidden details lurking about the place, which only sharp young eyes and imaginative young minds will spot. If you do go along for a visit, keep your eyes peeled for the Tom & Jerry-like mouse hole near the ‘lollipopter’. Follow the footprints that lead away from it to their very end and you might find yourself richly rewarded…
Rebecca Davies is a journalist and author and is currently working on a guide to children’s book writing for Robert Hale Publishing. You can read more of her children’s book blogs here and follow her on Twitter as @RebeccaDavies__Tagged in: east london, Stratford, Westfield Centre, ‘Discover’ Children’s Story Centre
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