Dr Wendy O’Shea-Meddour

Award-winning children’s author brings story time online to help children during coronavirus lockdown

An award-winning Exeter children’s author has become a virtual bedtime storyteller to help families cope with the coronavirus lockdown.

Dr Wendy O’Shea-Meddour has replaced her work in schools and libraries with story sessions filmed at her home for toddlers to nine-year-olds. Her books have already garnered recognition for helping adults support children through difficult experiences and have become even more relevant now.

The sessions, available online, will include readings from new books not yet published. Dr O’Shea-Meddour, who records with a camera balanced on a plant pot or a pile of books, is also a University of Exeter academic, researching the role picture books have on children’s mental health and wellbeing.

The Youtube Channel, called “Story Times for Little Ones”, includes books such as: How the Library (Not the Prince) Saved Rapunzel, The Glump and the Peeble, Stefano the Squid, Tibble and Grandpa and Lubna and Pebble. Determined to help children find their favourite stories online, Wendy has also created a ‘Stay at Home Story Bank’, where she includes links to other recommended story telling sites.

Dr O’Shea-Meddour said: “I hope my efforts, and those of other children’s authors, will help children feel less alone and give parents a little respite during this difficult time. Children will inevitably be feeling a little lost in lock down: missing friends, family and the outdoors, and stories can be a source of such comfort.

“I always hope my books can support children during tricky times. They cover issues such as grief, fear, anxiety and loneliness in a sensitive, age-appropriate way, and sometimes funny way. They are research led and designed to open up conversations that help young people develop empathy and resilience. Picture books are the perfect excuse to cuddle up with and reassure your little people, but they can also be used to help children talk about the things that are worrying them.’’

Lubna and Pebble, which addresses the current global refugee crisis, was recently named as one of the “Best Children’s Books of the Year” by Time Magazine. It is being used across the world to build empathy skills and open difficult conversations about what it means to be a refugee.

The book is being used by educators and carers in refugee camps across Greece to help children overcome traumatic experiences. In the UK it is being used to embed ‘empathy skills’ into the curriculum and encourage social action.

Since her debut was shortlisted for the ‘Branford Boase Outstanding First Novel’ Award in 2012, Dr O’Shea-Meddour has published 18 children’s books. Her latest, Tisha and Blossom, is all about mindfulness: taking a deep breath and noticing the importance of the little things.

Dr O’Shea-Meddour said: “Though we’re all adjusting to a quieter life, the online world is something we’re all trying to master fast. I’ve been teaching students online, and participated in the Stay at Home Literary Festival, a really moving experience – with aspiring authors joining in from flats in Italy, bedrooms in Canada and balconies in Spain.

“The arts really can be a source of solace, and a place to escape to during difficult times.”

Watch the ‘Story Time for Little Ones’ videos at: https://wendymeddour.co.uk/story-time/

Find the ‘Stay at Home Story Bank’ at: https://wendymeddour.co.uk/the-stay-at-home-story-bank/

Date: 20 April 2020