Multi-sensory storyteller Ailie Finlay explores how to adapt a traditional tale and make your own sensory story for Scottish Book Trust's Inclusive Stories Festival.
We all love to hear stories about ourselves – why not take a well-known folktale and set it in your own home or school with your family or class as the characters!
I have created two sensory stories for the Scottish Book Trust’s Inclusive Stories Festival. One is an adaptation of the traditional Scottish tale The Runaway Bannock and the other is a version of The Runaway Gingerbread Boy. My Runaway Bannock sticks fairly close to the original, but my Gingerbread Boy takes place at The Yard Playground(this will open in a new window), complete with art activities, play workers and a soft play area!
One big advantage of this type of folktale is that their simple plots and clear patterns make them easy to adapt; settings and characters can be slotted in easily if the overall shape of the story stays the same.
Decide which snack is going to run away!
To create your very own Runaway Biscuit Story you first need to choose what it is that is going to run away! There are actually many different versions of this type of story told in lots of different countries. Escapees include pancakes in Norway, buns in Russia and cakes in Ireland. (I sometimes wonder if this is a reflection of that universal feeling: ‘I’m sure I put my biscuit down here somewhere!’) Stick with tradition or include a snack that you know is a favourite of your child(ren).
Pick your setting and characters
Then you need a setting and characters. Is your biscuit being baked in a kitchen, eaten at a snack table or taken on a picnic? As it is a sensory story try to choose characters who can be introduced by an interesting sensory experience. In my version of the Gingerbread Boy set at The Yard Playground I had teenagers on bicycles (with bicycle bells), babies with rattles and children dressed as super-heroes (with flapping capes). If you are setting your story in your school you might have as your characters the music teacher with a drum, the school secretary clicking their keyboard (use an old keyboard that is no longer in use), the janitor flapping some bin bags.
Think about the sensory elements
I try with my stories to have the sensory experiences mirror the shape of the story – so the sensory experience which makes the most impression should be the one that comes at the climax of the story. This is easily achieved with these runaway biscuit type of stories; as each character joins on to the chase the story becomes livelier and noisier. If you are telling the story to a group try handing out the props to the children and/or to other staff members. This will mean that the children are surrounded by noises and sensations by the end of the story. (Always judge carefully what level of noise and chaos is enjoyable for your child or group of children.)
Choose your ending
And then you come to the ending. By the time you get to the close of your story you will have made it your own – so create an ending that you enjoy! Does the biscuit make its escape, or does somebody catch it? Do more biscuits get baked? (Or does the story have a healthy eating message?!) My only piece of advice would be to say that stories are a great place to re-distribute power – if anyone is going to catch that cookie I think it should be the youngest child in the school rather than the headteacher!
Useful links and resources
- Turning picture books into sensory stories – Ailie's other Scottish Book Trust resource has lots of advice on how to adapt picture books into multi-sensory stories
- My Kind of Book website(this will open in a new window) – Ailie Finlay's website creates and promotes books for people with additional needs and works to make picture books more accessible for everyone.