Getting Ahead with a Tale

25 June 2020

Cathy Olmedillas, the founder of Anorak magazine, argues that if we want children to learn, we need to foster the art of storytelling

Childhood is perhaps the only point in a person's life when imagination lies at the core of everything they do. Imagining stories is something children do best. To use this enthusiasm as a tool to teach kids about almost any subject seems obvious; after all, as British education expert Sir Ken Robinson argues, "Imagination is the source of all human achievements."

At Anorak magazine, we keep the simple but enriching principle of imagination at the core of everything we do. When we first launched the publication 11 years ago, we were often told it wouldn't work because it was "too highbrow", "too sophisticated" and "too creative".

We took these as compliments, since the last thing we wanted to be was another children's magazine that narrowed kids' minds, and only featured princesses, robots and pointless plastic toys on the cover. All our issues are themed and we have tackled some big subjects, firm in our belief that our audience could absolutely handle these, provided they were presented in an imaginative, fun and creative way. Did they work? From a sales perspective, certainly; Our Fear, Dreams and Friendships editions have been the most successful to date; they sold out within a month.

Yet, from a pedagogical point of view, I think we've been proved right, too. We very much believe that everything is interesting (yes, including maths) provided it is taught in a creative way. So why not turn times tables into songs, or complex history lessons into comic books or even a video games? These are fun and easy ways to engage children with any subjects and will equip them for the future and whatever types of jobs the current digital revolution will be throwing at them. All that's holding us back is perhaps our own imagination.

Formerly of The Face and Sleazenation, Cathy Olmedillas is the founder and creative director of Studio Anorak, publishers of Happy Mag for Kids, Anorak Magazine and Dot.

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