Jean Russell Storytelling Project

A brilliant project that reached a wide range of children and adults in communities that suffer various forms of deprivation’

To hear about the Jean Russell Storytelling Project and the value of storytelling in education, in the words of the children and teachers themselves watch the video and to catch the latest video of the 2018 project click here 

The Jean Russell Storytelling Project

The Jean Russell Storytelling Project was generously supported by The Ragdoll Foundation in memory of Jean Russell, a lifelong friend of Anne Wood, Founder of the Federation of Children’s Book Groups, who worked with her over many years to make the Federation grow and flourish.

Jean was passionate about sharing books and stories with children and each project has been designed to reach those children who do not have the opportunities and rich experiences of storytelling.

Stories foster the dreams of childhood and liberate the imagination.  Federation events, both local and national, have always had stories at their heart. 

For teachers, storytelling improves vocabulary, particularly for children who struggle with reading and helps with understanding sentence construction.  Participating in storytelling aids children with story sequencing and gives them the confidence to use their imagination to invent their own stories.

Performance storytelling is an immersive experience using props, music and song, call and response and participatory actions to enhance the storytelling experience.  The projects so far have worked with Anna Conomos, an award-winning performance storyteller, who can engage children of all ages with her dynamism and creativity.  

‘The children loved working with Anna because she used their ideas so creatively and made them feel confident’.

Who was involved

The Storytelling Projects of 2016 and 2018 reached children in hospital, in Special Schools, in inner cities, rural Wales, marginalised coastal towns in Lincolnshire and Suffolk and deprived areas of Oxford and High Wycombe.

Visit the pages for the 2016 and 2018 projects to learn more about each school and project.

The design of the projects

The children co-created stories in workshops for performances to their peers, to their parents and to invited audiences as part of festivals in Oxford and Birmingham using freeze-frames, music, rhyme and movement. Each element of the projects is designed to ensure that the children’s voices are heard throughout and that they are empowered to create their own interpretations of the stories they are performing.   

Storytelling workshops for teachers and parents, who have never had the confidence to tell stories, have also been a highly successful element of the projects.

‘What makes a story interesting is how you tell it…use your face/body/hands…look at your audience…be confident…have fun…enjoy it’

‘Really enjoyed (it). I will try the ideas at home…”

The parents’ workshop was also excellently planned and encouraged adults to work together to retell a well-known story. Great to see two dads attend.’   


2018 ‘The Doll Who Ate Stories’

The project for 2018 drew on the parallels between the creative storytelling journey and the cooking journey: gathering ingredients, mixing them up, creating the suspense and then leading to the final delivery – the story or the meal.

Using the Russian folk tale of Baba Yaga and Vasilisa the Fair, whose magic doll was always hungry for food stories, children chose their favourite food stories, wrote traditional food stories with a twist and learned Russian lullabies as part of their performances of Baba Yaga to their peers, their teachers and audiences at the Three Laureates Festival 

Working with 7 schools across the UK, over 200 children participated in workshops and performed to nearly 2,000 children and adults. Click here to read more about the 2018 project 


The project in 2016 directly engaged 1,800 children and young people, across 19 schools and a children’s ward. The workshops involved 80 adults – teachers and parents and 19 Education students training to be teachers. Running throughout the year it worked with children in hospitals, schools in deprived areas, Community Arts Festivals and worked with young carers. Click here to read more about the 2016 project