The Dreaming Place

I have been a parent of three, grandmother of two and teacher of countless hundreds of children, all of whom trusted me – at some point or another – to answer some of life’s biggest questions.

Sadly, just about all of them came into contact with life events that would spark one of the very biggest questions of all – what happens when someone dies?

We in the West, in the early 21st century, live in a time peculiarly badly equipped to deal with this issue.  On the one hand we have a strange, sanitised left-over version of mediaeval religion’s ideas.  On the other we have the scientific empirical humanist concept of life, which doesn’t tally with it at all.  Hovering around the edges are the various unclassified spiritual beliefs that ‘life’ survives death in some form or other.

When I wrote The Glassmaker’s Children, I decided this was one of the questions I needed to spend some time addressing.  The results were sometimes surprising.  Despite the subject of death and dying being confined to a single conversation between elderly Misty and her young pupil Stellan, one adult reader of the book contacted me to say she had always struggled to explain death to her son and was now sending him a copy of my book – although he is in his thirties now – as she felt it would put his mind at rest.

I first came across The Dreaming Place when my own mother relocated there, some five or six years before her physical death.  This will be a familiar story to anyone who has watched a loved one with dementia.

When we dream at night, sometimes we are ourselves, sometimes we are a younger or older version of ourselves and at other times we are participating in a quite different life as another person.  That is exactly how ‘waking’ life is for someone with dementia.

Forgetfulness, Civilian Service, CareI would visit Mum at her care home several times a week.  Sometimes she ‘recognised’ me as myself at once and chatted away cheerfully.  At others she would see me as her younger sister (often in the middle of some age-old childhood squabble – I would get a real mouthful then!).  The next time she might interpret me as a visiting doctor or health worker and be glassily polite and charming.  There were times I wasn’t sure who I was in her narrative-of-the-moment.  It all made some sort of sense to her and was – until I finally realised what was happening – frightening and distressing to me.

Dementia, then – this dreaming-while-awake taken to extremes – is how some choose to transition between life and afterlife.  Others simply sleep more and more before drifting away.  Others make an instant jump.  It’s never easy for those left behind here, but helpful, maybe, to have a view of life and death that side-steps the coldness of science and the mixed messages of religion.

This is how Misty tackles it in my book, when young Stellan questions her about her explanation of life and death to his toddler sister:

“Well, let’s see if I can help you to make some sense of it.  Firstly, I meant and believed exactly what I said to Ruby Rose that day.  However, as you’ve pointed out, many other people think differently.  Moira, for example, who goes to chapel every Sunday, would say that birth is a miracle and that people have a soul as well as a body.  She believes everyone should try hard to be good during their lives because those who are will be saved by God and their souls will go to Heaven.”

“Yes, that’s sort of what we learned at my old school,” nodded Stellan.  “We sung lots of hymns about Heaven in assembly, anyhow.”

“Quite.  Now if you were to ask Edward – your Mr E – he would say that birth is a result of chemical changes inside the mother’s body, that the new born child is simply a collection of cells that are constantly altering, dying and renewing themselves, causing the body and mind to grow until it finally reaches a point where it can no longer stay alive and then the body dies and rots away and that’s all there is to it.  That’s the scientific view.”

Stellan was silent for quite a time, thinking about that, and Misty stayed quiet to allow him to do so.

“The two ideas are very different,” he said, finally.  “So do people have to choose which one they think is right, or does somebody tell them?”

“Ha!” laughed Misty, “There will be no shortage of people telling you what to believe!  The secret is to listen, then decide for yourself.  Find the beliefs that feel right to you but – and this is most important – always allow others to hold their own beliefs without criticising or laughing at them.”

Stellan looked hard at Misty.  “What about you?” he asked.  “You don’t believe either of those things, do you?”

Misty thought for a moment before answering.

“I believe parts of both of them,” she said, carefully choosing her words, “but I don’t think either of them gives the whole picture.

“Let’s take chemistry; chemistry is the study of changes – astonishing, marvellous changes.  People who are very young, though, or very old – and a few others – know chemistry by another name.  They know it as Magic.  …  It’s the way to use your Dreaming Self – the part of you that goes on forever, the part Moira might call your soul, or whatever the Welsh for that might be.  That’s the part of you that can do anything just by thinking about it.

“Small children, who still remember what it’s like to be in the Dreaming Place, know all about it.  That’s why I enjoy hearing Ruby Rose’s ‘perspectives’ so much.  People near the end of their lives realise they’ll soon be back there, so they start to remember the Magic, too.  That, I think, is why very young and very old people sleep so much.”

“They spend more time in the Dreaming Place, you mean?  Yes, I see that.  But you and me – I mean I’m quite young and you’re quite old, but not very.  So how do we remember the Magic if most people forget it or don’t believe it’s there?”

Misty chuckled.  “That’s an excellent question, my dear!  I think perhaps people like us wake up in our dreams and keep dreaming in this Waking Place.  Does that sound right to you?”

“I’ll need to think about it,” Stellan admitted.  “But I’m glad it was a good question.”

The Glassmaker’s Children is available in Kindle and Paperback from Amazon and other booksellers.

Another side of Writing for Children

Sea-Themed Early Readers' Miniature Book Kit  Tiny image 4Not as easy as it looks!  How many of us as parents have sat yawning at the banal, dreary text of those early reading books our children brought home?  Spare a thought for the authors – especially now that they are hamstrung by phonics.

I complicate things even more for myself by writing mini-books – just 6 pages long and only about 1.5 x 2 inches.  They will fit into the palm of a child’s hand, but still need a colourful picture on each page and text large enough for 4 and 5 year olds to read.  My final challenge is that I’m not an illustrator and as the books need to be very cheap, I can’t afford one.  The answer lies in royalty-free art, with plenty of creative adjustments made in Word’s picture formatter.

Tiny Book for Early Readers  Printable Story Book for 4-6 image 4I do enjoy a challenge, though.  Kind of similar to the discipline involved in writing Haiku.  Let me take you through the process of creating this little volume.

  1. A thoughtful artist has drawn two versions of this corgi – one standing, one holding a stick in its mouth.  I can work with that.
  2. A second kind artist has drawn a guy throwing a water bomb.  Crucially, the missile has left his hand and I can crop it out.
  3. Page 1 of my story shows said guy throwing.  Water bomb isn’t suitable.  Choking hazard.  So I get a ball from Word’s icon stash, change its colour and paste that in, adding text: get it Pat.
  4. Page 2 is corgi with stick.  Dog looks proud.  Silly dog.  Text: I got it.
  5. Page 3 repeats the throwing guy.  This time I give him a boomerang icon. Text: get this Pat.
  6. Page 4 – you’ve guessed it.  Repeat of page 2.  Nothing like a running gag to amuse my tiny audience.  Oh Pat, you total failure.
  7. Two pages to go and I’m looking for a resolution.  Food!  That will motivate the dog to try harder.  I search ‘fruit’ in the icons and Word comes up trumps – a bunch of bananas and a banana skin.
  8. Tiny Book for Early Readers  Printable Story Book for 4-6 image 3Page 5 and throwing guy is hurling the bananas.  Repeat of get this Pat.
  9. *Spoiler alert*:  Final page I use the standing dog picture, reversed so he’s facing the right way, with two banana skins at his feet.  Text: I got it.

So deep gratitude to the artists on Pixabay and whoever stuck all those icons on Word.  I’ve use a mere six words of text, with plenty of repeats, making it viable as a reading book at early years and yet it tells a story.  I feel oddly satisfied.

For a mere £1.90 (VAT included) or local equivalent, this cheery little tale is available as a downloadable file to print out and put together.  Perfect stocking filler/ rainy day activity, or teachers/LSAs could print out a bunch as end of term gifts.  There are various titles available on Inspiralingo

As for me, I make about the same financially from the sale of one of these files as from the sale of a copy of my novel…  Funny old world!


I’d asked for reviews from children for my kids’ novel, and 9 year old Jacob obliged.

Of course I was fascinated to see what a member of my target audience made of it.  One of his comments surprised me.  He said:

Illumination, Imagination, Creativity“My favourite character is Stellan because he has a good imagination.”

Hardly surprising that he would identify with Stellan – the main character and a boy around his own age – but I had to stop and think about the good imagination.   Stellan is a caring boy but very much prone to overthinking everything at the start of the story, who is forced unwillingly into difficult situations that he’d much rather avoid. 

Ah, but he does have a good imagination.  Jacob is right.  He stares across the sea at the ‘blue misty place’ just visible on the horizon and imagines the people and places there, weaving them into little stories to amuse his small sister.  

Very gradually, as he discovers the links between imagination and creativity, he starts to use it actively to change life for the better.  

Not knowing quite how it was happening, he pushed all the doubts and fears away, imagining each one falling off the island and drifting away down the river.  He imagined filling himself instead with bravery and strength.  He’d never thought of himself as either brave or strong, but just about everyone else in his life had changed, so why shouldn’t he?

By the end of the story, Stellan is instinctively using his imagination to change life for the better. 

I’d written the book to help children who felt disempowered and let down to develop their own ways of coping and dealing with life’s challenges.  I imagined and created Stellan, then set him free to see what effect he could have.  So imagine my delight at reading young Jacob’s final words in his Amazon review:

“After I read the book I felt positive and like I could do anything!!!”

If you know someone who would enjoy this story – and maybe benefit from its message, you can find it here in the UK or worldwide by searching Amazon for The Glassmaker’s Children by Jan Stone.

The Author’s Voice

When a bolshy old dear takes on a new activity – something unfamiliar – you can bet she will put her own stamp on it to some degree.

Book, Library, Lady, ShakespeareI’ve always been a fan of the ‘aside’.  Whether it’s Eric Morecambe turning to camera mid sketch and giving the audience that knowing look or Shakespeare allowing one of his characters to remind the audience that they share a secret not known to the others on stage.  (“And yet,” says Viola, roughly paraphrased, “if he only knew that I was not his male servant, but in fact a disguised lady who fancies the pants off him!”)

Nineteenth century novelists used the device fairly routinely.  “Alas, dear reader!  Had she but seen…” and all that.  It’s now fallen out of favour.  Modern authors and playwrights tend to assume the reader is so immersed in the narrative that any intervention on their part would be unnecessary at least and impudent at worst.  Me?  I like it.  As the author of The Glassmaker’s Children – I insert the occasional aside to the ‘dear reader’ and even, on occasion, move the story around for their benefit.

In Chapter 2, for example, I drag one character, despite his vociferous protests, from his rightful place much further on in the story to come and share some specialist knowledge he has with the reader.

Apothecary, Bottles, Medicine, Medical“What?  Where am I?  And, ugh!  What’s that smell, for goodness’ sake?  Salt?  Seaweed?  This is the seaside, isn’t it?  I HATE seasides!  Nasty windy places with sand getting between your toes and into your lunch… and all those noisy, greedy seagulls.  You can’t just pick me up and dump me here!  I was in the middle of mixing some cough syrup for little Lily Jenkins.  I’m not supposed to come into this story until Chapter 11!”

I’m sorry I shocked you, dear Apothecary, but I’m afraid we need you here, just for a little while, and then you can go back to mixing the medicine and I promise I’ll leave you in peace until your part of the story.  You see we are talking about glass, and the Glassmaker.  I need you to explain what is special about glass – the chemistry of glass – to our readers.  Would you mind?

“Humph!  It seems I don’t have much choice.  Story-makers!  How you mess about with people’s lives!  Very well, then.  Let’s get on with it, so that I can get back to my work.”

And it seems only fair, when we finally do meet this character in his rightful place in the story, to have him still mixing that cough syrup for the little girl and to ask the reader to excuse his somewhat distracted and nervous behaviour, in view of the shock he has had.

I remember as a child of roughly the age my present book is aimed at remarking to my mother that people in storybooks never went to the toilet.  She explained that stories were different to life because the storyteller chose only the parts they wanted the reader to know about and could move to various settings and omit minutes, days or months at will.  At the time, that was a revelation to me.  Now, it’s a freedom I’ve enjoyed playing with and I’m perfectly happy to include the reader in the magical time travel that narrative involves.

More time had passed and it was the end of July.  That’s how it happens in books.  We story-makers can leap from time to time and place to place as effortlessly as you do in your dreams. 

The Glassmaker’s Children – written for 9-12 year olds but apparently being enjoyed by many adults – is available on Amazon as a paperback or Kindle e-book.

Foreigners? The Welsh Connection

If there was one word I felt most nervous about using when I wrote The Glassmaker’s Children, it was the title of Chapter 9: Foreigners!  The word is not one I would normally use.  It was necessary, though.  You see I wanted to speak alike to those children who find themselves growing up in and attempting to adapt to a new country and culture as well as to those who have been reared in a quiet, rural monoculture, with little experience of any heritage beyond their own.

A small digression here:  In my mid twenties, I left my job in glorious, diverse, vibrant inner city London to take up a post in a quiet, rural village in Suffolk.  I’d grown up in the countryside.  I didn’t think it would be too difficult to adapt.  On my first day in the staffroom, though, I had a shock so deep, it took a while to recover.

The other teachers were mostly older than me and – like my new pupils – all white, all from solid Anglo-Saxon stock going back for many generations and born and bred in the local area.  They were pleasant and friendly.

Then one rather jolly lady leaned across to me and laughed, saying, “Lovely to meet you.  I have to say, it was a bit of a relief to all of us when you walked through the door!  After the head had put your name up on the noticeboard, we had no idea what colour you would turn out to be or whether we’d be able to understand you!”

There was a ripple of laughter around the room and I had absolutely no idea how to react.  They were not intentionally racist.  They were good-hearted people who simply had very, very narrow horizons.  As the granddaughter of a European economic migrant, I had a foreign surname – one that started with a Z.  This simple fact was enough to strike fear into my new colleagues.

The children were similarly blinkered.  My new class of 9 and 10 year olds were curious to see a photo of the class I’d taught in Peckham, South London.  They stared open-mouthed as I showed them the smiling faces of the gloriously diverse bunch of pupils I’d left behind.  Not hostile, but stunned.  They had never encountered anyone who didn’t share their own culture.


Welsh Flag, Pennant, Welsh, Wales, FlagThat is why I wanted the children in my story, who had grown up in a small west-country English village, to experience life as strangers in a new land.

In this extract, they have just travelled by sea across the Bristol Channel to start a new life in the ‘blue misty land’ they used to look out on from their clifftop home.  It hadn’t occurred to them that a different country lay beyond the waves and they are consequently surprised when their hostess greets and talks with her cleaning lady in a different language.

“Where does Moira come from?” Stellan asked, curiously.  “Is she a foreigner?”

They’d once had a boy from Spain arrive at school for a few weeks and all the children had been fascinated to hear the strange words he had for the everyday things around them.

“She comes from just along the road, here in the village,” laughed Misty.  “I’m afraid it’s we who are the foreigners in her land!  …  Like you, Stellan, I come from England.  There are quite a few of us English people in Wales and just about everyone here can speak English.  Amongst themselves, though, they usually talk in Welsh.  It’s a beautiful language to listen to, like a river bubbling over stones, I always think.  I don’t speak it very well, but I’ve learned a little, because I think it’s polite to speak to people in their own language when you’re a guest in their country, don’t you?”

Stellan nodded slowly.

Stellan’s shock at discovering that he is now a foreigner and his attempt to adapt to life in Wales becomes one of the themes in the second half of the book.


I myself live fairly close to the beautiful country of Wales.  Like my eponymous heroes, I’ve often stood here in Somerset gazing across the sea to the misty Welsh mountains and – in the days when such things were possible – used to take bus and train trips there.   When lockdown started, back in March, I decided to try learning a smattering of Welsh and uploaded one of those free language apps to my phone.  Little did I know then that it would come in useful for the occasional ‘bore da‘ or ‘gwych!‘ in my story.


The Glassmaker’s Children by Jan Stone is a story for 8-12 year olds, available as a paperback or Kindle e-book on Amazon.

Amazon UK link.

Amazon US link.



Can you judge a book by its cover?

Cover of Jan Stone's bookThey say you can’t.

In the case of The Glassmaker’s Children, though, I’d like to think that perhaps you can.

This is my son Joe Stone’s cover design for my children’s novel.  I couldn’t be more delighted with the way he has captured the fairly complex themes within the book in this one striking image.

There are my two main characters – Stellan and his little sister Ruby Rose, staring out from the harbour of their fictional village of Avoning – somewhere along the North Devon or Somerset coast in England.

Their father is a very skilled glassmaker and the lens they are staring through was made and polished by him.  Glass is, though, a fragile, slippery and deceptive substance, and as Stellan and Ruby look more closely, cracks begin to appear – not just in the glass, but in their lives.

Joe has captured the point where the cracks are spreading so rapidly that soon only the frame will be left.

The horizon they are looking towards is significant, too.  Can they see a blue, misty place in the far distance, or are they imagining it?  Ruby is certain it exists and holds the key to their future.  Her older brother is less sure.  Perhaps he’ll be able to see more clearly when the glass is gone and all that is left is an empty frame.


My boy Joe is a freelance designer and illustrator, working from East London.   He works Joe Stone designerfor some of the biggest names out there, so I consider myself very lucky to be able to call on his services.  Click on his photo there to find out more about him.

He’s also a writer himself and has published several comics, including the achingly honest and much acclaimed STUTTER.  Details of those are on his website, too.

All three of my children are brilliant artists (for which I can sadly take no credit – it comes from their Dad’s side!).  Joe’s older brother Matt designed the cover for my first book – Life: A Player’s Guide, while their sister designs and sells inspiring graphic wall art from Calme Kids Co, her thriving Etsy shop.

Then of course there are my wonderful grandchildren who – without realising it – gave me many ideas and inspirations for my book.  The little girl in the story bears more than a passing resemblance to a younger version of my now very-grown-up-5-year-old granddaughter and it was she who chose the character’s name, telling me it was the most beautiful name in the world.  Mind you, a few months before, her favourite name for a girl was Quesadilla, so I think Ruby Rose got off lightly there!  Stellan is a more complex character, but he shares some personality traits and attitudes with my lovely grandson.


The Glassmaker’s Children by Jan Stone  – a story for 8-12 year olds – is now available on Amazon worldwide in a digital Kindle version and you can order the paperback there too, although it will take around another ten days to be available.

The UK link is here.

For people in the USA, click on this link.

Lastly, if you click the white ‘FOLLOW’ button on the right there on this page, you should get emails when new articles are posted about this book and my other resources for kids.



When narcissists have children

I couldn’t find the right book.  I searched long and hard.  Eventually I gave up and wrote it myself.

Sculpture, Statue, Art, Human, HamburgWhat I needed – to be absolutely blunt – was a book about how it feels to be the thoughtful, caring child of a narcissist.

I needed a story gentle enough for a child as young as 8 or 9 to read and enjoy, but one serious enough to show the devastating effects narcissism can have upon a family.  I needed a book that, while having enough fun, characterisation and adventure to engage the casual reader, was able to reach and resonate with those who had experience of living with and coping with someone so utterly wrapped up in themselves and their own desires that they have little to give.

“I do love you.”

“I know you do, son,” Pa had replied, with a wave.

I needed this book to be encouraging and empowering, because nothing saps the self-esteem of a child more than realising they are not nurtured and cared about by someone who means the world to them.

The story is purposely set in a slightly nebulous past – a world without the trappings of the 21st century, and with just enough simplicity and magic to place it firmly in the world of fiction.  The sheer awfulness of the Glassmaker (he’s the only main character not to be graced with a name) is compensated for by the arrival in young Stellan’s life of kind, caring people who help him to consider his situation and to use his experiences to his own advantage.

Here’s a snippet of conversation with Mr E, the enigmatic village apothecary:

“Your father gave you a wonderful gift … I don’t say he meant to.  I don’t say he had the slightest idea what he was doing, but it was a great gift, just the same.”

Stellan’s eyes grew wide and he stared hard at the Apothecary.  “I don’t understand,” he said.  “My father gave me worries and fears and made me feel ashamed.  That’s not a wonderful gift, is it?”

“Oh it is, you know,” the Apothecary smiled.  “It certainly doesn’t feel that way to you now.  I know that.  But the gift is there, hiding amongst all the bad feelings, already growing and growing, until it fills the whole of you up with the thing you want the most.”

Sculpture, Statue, Hamburg

And what is it Stellan wants the most?  Perhaps you can already guess.  Perhaps it’s what every child in a situation like his has always wanted.  As the reader, you watch him growing and developing little by little, but it isn’t until the final chapter that Stellan and his small sister Ruby Rose are able to recognise and celebrate their successes.

Don’t expect a Hollywood-style happy ending.  I’d waded through endless children’s books that portrayed dysfunctional or flawed parents as ‘coming right in the end’ and, when all the chips were down, putting the children first and acting the way mums or dads are meant to.  That’s why I felt the need to create this story. The Glassmaker doesn’t change.  He doesn’t ‘come right’.  But his children survive and thrive regardless.

My story – The Glassmaker’s Children by Jan Stone – is published as an e-book on Amazon Kindle and is now also available in paperback, also on Amazon.

Here is the link.

Weird Stuff Everywhere

Things have been rather quiet here recently, while I worked on other projects.

Inspiralingo isn’t forgotten, though.

Ordinary GelbflechteThis week I’ve added a set of very quirky nature hunt sheets to the range.  They are designed to be suitable for walks just about anywhere – from tiny villages to inner cities and all the fairly nature-poor housing estates and suburbs in between.  I’ve done that by focusing on plants that have found ways to survive anywhere – lichens, mosses and ‘ninja plants’ – the ones that manage to find their way into walls and through cracks in the pavement.

green mossEach sheet is crammed with information about these stunning little plants – which to look for to assess the levels of pollution in your area, which to use to navigate and find North and which are actually a combination of two different plants, working together to survive.

If your kids are moaning about exercise walks being boring, these should help to motivate them to look at your locality in new ways.

Not forgetting the teachers, either…  Any of these factsheets will provide the basis for a KS1 or KS2 outdoor science lesson, which can be carried out within the school grounds (yes, even if your school is a sterile grey concrete box!) and with social distancing.

At just over £1 for all three, they’re a total bargain.  Here is the link.

Download to a tablet or print out and take them along on the next few walks you do.



Grow Your Own Words

It sounds about as dull as any KS2 English lesson can be – “Today we’re going to learn about prefixes and suffixes.”  Actually, though, these unassuming little snippets of words are the key to creating (and correctly spelling!) a wonderful range of deliciously long and complicated words.

I showed one of my ‘Grow Your Own Words’ sheets to Slightly Bigger (my 8-year-old grandson) this week and asked for his opinion.

“Yes, it’s pretty good,” he told me.  “It looks quite short and kids love short worksheets – trust me on that.  I think you need to make some of the targets lower – 5 instead of 7 words for the bronze award and 8 for silver, but I guess 15 is about right for gold.

“I think you need some little comments after the awards to, like, encourage them a bit, you know?”

He proceeded to dictate the constructive comments for each – which I have used verbatim.  I pushed him up to 9 words for the silver award and we put together the new-improved version on my computer.

“Okay,” I told him, “Now you have to try it out for me.  I used to use it for Years 5 and 6, so let’s see what a Year 3 person can do.”

He started to build words, adding prefixes and suffixes to the ‘root’.  At first he had a ‘let’s get this out of the way quickly’ attitude, but when he reached the bronze target of five words he didn’t want to stop until he managed gold.

“Is ‘disform’ a word?  Hey, ‘formal’ – I’ve heard of that, but I don’t remember what it means.”

“What might you wear to a wedding?” I hinted.

“Oh, right, yeah!  Formal clothes.  So I could do ‘informal’, too!”

Eventually, with much fist pumping, he reached the gold award level.


As a freebie, I’m adding one of the new activity sheets (suitable for ages 7- adult) to this post.  Go to this link, though, and you will find all four Grow Your Own Words sheets to download for a very modest price from Inspiralingo, along with a crib sheet for the adults!

Download your free sheet here: grow word FORM 


End of an Era?

Smallest – my five-year-old granddaughter – is heading back to school on Monday.  I’ve been laughing, stressing and sometimes battling my way through our daily ‘lessons’ since mid-March.

Teachers who manage whole groups of little ones on Zoom or similar platforms have my undying admiration.  While her eight-year-old brother has been relatively easy to engage with, Smallest often has her own curriculum to follow.  I’ll video call her on WhatsApp with all my resources at the ready, and as often as not be told that she is being the teacher today and has a Spell School story to tell me, or I get taken on an extended visit to the rabbit run or the stick insects’ tank, or I get told – very dramatically – that it’s all too much and she just can’t do any more learning!

Family or School Reading Activity Ages 5-11  Kids Book-making image 4Of course there have been wonderful days, too.  We did the final Spell School story today, introducing er  – the last of the Phase 3 phonic sounds.  I even wrote her into it, as the very clever girl who could read ‘disappear’.  That, after all, was the highlight of our lessons.  It appears on the final page of the mini book Bad Bug in three soap bubbles and when she realised that she had read such a huge word by herself, her shrieks of delight reverberated around the house.  Her mummy had to temporarily give up her precious work time to hear this new skill.

When she hear that part of the Spell School story today, a slow smile spread across her face and a stubby little finger pointed at herself.

“That was ME!” she breathed joyfully.

Still brimming with pride, she took on the challenge and managed to read all of the loooong words at the end of today’s story.


I’m sadly aware that I’ve neglected this blog recently, while being so caught up in preparing lessons and teaching the little ones.

So printed below is the last of the Spell School Lessons, for anyone who would like to use it and, in celebration of this ‘era ending’ in my family, I’m having a special sale in my Inspiralingo shop, with 50% off all the lockdown-themed mini-book kits.  They are supplied as digital downloads and come with a free blank-paged keepsake book, with a choice of two covers, for an older child to write in and construct.

Please go to this link to find the almost free mini-books and other games, puzzles, quizzes and activities for children.

So wishing all things good to Smallest (and her teachers!) as she returns to school, and here is the story of ‘er’.


Note for parents/carers: the er sound should be read as the tiny grunt-like sound at the end of ‘butter‘, ‘shower‘ etc.

Final Spell School Story

The children in Orange Class and Purple Class were looking at the last empty chair.

“Just one more person to come,” said igh.  “I wonder what their sound will be.”

“I hope it’s someone who helps us to make big words,” ear said.  “I heard about this really clever girl who could read the word disappear!  It would be so cool to be able to make big words like that!”

“What, with just one new sound?” laughed zz. “That won’t happen!”

“As a matter of fact,” said e, I think it might.  If you all help us, I can do a spell with r to make just the sort of sound you want, ear.”

Now everyone was looking excited.  It would be cool to make longer words.

“Come on then, e,” said r.  “You stand in front of me and everyone can help us make the spell.”

They closed their eyes and made the shapes of e, then r and when they opened their eyes again, the last person in Purple Class was standing there giggling.

“Hello,” said everyone eagerly.  “What’s your sound?”

er,” she said.

“That’s a TINY sound!” exclaimed oi. “How can you help us make big words?”

er giggled again.  “Let me show you.  I’m going to give you a test!  Can you make the word buzz?”

“Easy!” said the others.  b went first, then u, then zz.  er came up and stood after them.

“Look,” she said.  “Now we’ve made the word buzzer.”

“Wow!” shouted everyone.  “That’s a big word, but it’s easy to make.  Can we do some more?”

er worked with all the other sounds and you will be amazed when you see all the words they made.  You’ll be even more amazed when you see how many of their long words you can read.


butter    letter     rubber     

matter   pepper    better

tower     shower   dinner

shiver     river      summer

Introducing Inspiralingo

As followers will know, I’ve been handing out free home-learning resources on this blog for several years now.

Since the beginning of lockdown – and the home-learning situation so many families have been thrust into – I’ve tried to ramp up my efforts.  I teach my grandchildren via video link each morning, so that their mum has some time to get on with her work.  Many of the resources I’ve made for them have been published here (check previous posts) but some were a bit more time-consuming and complicated, so I’ve decided to open up a little online shop to offer them to a wider audience.

Please head over to take a look.  This is the link to the Inspiralingo Shop.  All the games, books and resources are digital downloads, available as soon as you have ordered them, so not too late for today’s lesson!  I’ve kept the prices as low as possible and for the time being I’m offering a free ‘bubble licence’ to hard-pressed teachers – pay for one and you can reproduce it for all the kids in your school bubble.

My current favourites are the little book-making kits.

I’ve tried a few times in my long teaching career to create beginner reading books that children would enjoy.  ‘Phonics’ narrows down the word choices still further, but over the last few weeks I’ve picked up a few ideas.

I decided to make cute, tiny books small children could read and share with their teddies (perfect for playing schools!)

Kids' Book Kit Bundle  3 Tiny Phonic Reading Books  Mini image 1I decided to make them as craft kits an older child can put together for the younger sibling.  (There’s also a keepsake mini-journal for the older child to use.)

I decided to make a special set to reflect the current situation.  There’s a story of a female scientist, working to create a cure so that she can hug her aged parents again, one about a young boy who makes a special gift for his isolated grandmother and a simple guide to safety measures children must take as they return to school.  They are available separately or as a bargain bundle here: Reading Book Bundle.


Spell School 21 – Home learning primary age literacy activities

The new sound to add in today is igh.  It’s the one of the triple letter sounds taught in phase 3 phonics, so we will take it slowly.

Spell School  Purple Class Story 8

Hello.  Remember me?  I’m the vowel i.  Today I’m going to tell you one of my secrets.  I just hope the other Spell School people don’t all find out, because some of them might laugh at me and call me a baby.  You won’t tell them, will you?

Like all the vowels, I have to make more than one sound.  There is the little i sound I make in pin.  I can make my longer name sound when I turn into a capital letter and make the word I.  Being a capital letter makes me feel big and brave, you see.

Sometimes, though, I’m supposed to make that big I sound in other words and (this is my secret, so I’ll whisper it to you) I’m scared of doing that.  So I get help!

Luckily I have two very kind friends called g and h.  They know my secret and they stand with me.  When they are there we make a secret spell and together we turn into a tough, brave kid who can make that I sound.  Do you want to help us make my secret spell?  You have to shut your eyes and use your hand to write i, then g, then h.  Here he is – igh!

The new kid laughs.  “Don’t worry i.  I’ll keep your secret.  I know I look a bit weird, but if you want to remember me just think of ‘I get help‘ because the first sounds of those three words make my sound shape.  I make my sound in words like “sigh, high, light, right, sight and fight.

So now you know the secret!  If you see those three letters i, g and h together, remember ‘I get help‘ and just make the igh sound.  High five!


EY/FS – Get a piece of paper and write igh five times in the middle, like this:






Now see if you can build words around them by putting in the first and last sounds of these words, when your grown up reads them to you: fight  light  might  right  night

KS1 – There are so many rhyming words with that igh sound.  Most of them have t at the end.  Have a go at reading, and maybe learning this silly rhyme to help you remember the spelling pattern:

Mrs Wright went out one night

And she saw the strangest sight.

Upon his horse, a silver knight

And as she watched, the horse took flight!

High up in the moon’s soft light

The knight found stars that he could fight.

And as for poor old Mrs Wright,

She ran home after such a fright!


KS2 – Another of those annoying sounds that has many different spellings!  Let’s investigate them.  Divide a sheet of paper into 6 columns.  Write these headings at the top of them:

igh           ie         i           y           i_e         random

Now search for the words in these sentences with an ‘igh’ sound and write them under the correct heading.  If you really want a challenge, get someone else to read the sentences aloud for you, so you write the words at dictation!

She said goodbye with a tiny tear in her eye.

Try to buy a lemon and lime pie for my dessert.

Isla thinks that guy might be a bit shy.

How did knights fight with all that tight armour on?

Mike was trying to tie the Mighty Sea Rider to the mooring post while also attempting to stay dry.

It’s fine if you like that music – just wear your headphones when I am nearby!

We want to find the site of the Viking settlement.  Is it that pile of stones by the white stile?

How many did you find?  Which was the most common spelling for that sound?  Maybe you could add more words to your lists as you think of them.