Sunday Times Books LIVE Community Sign up

Login to Sunday Times Books LIVE

Forgotten password?

Forgotten your password?

Enter your username or email address and we'll send you reset instructions

Sunday Times Books LIVE

Join Julie Mentor and her team at Embrace for a day dedicated to storytelling and reading as a family

Two sets of chubby legs sit on either side of mine. Sticky fingers tap at the page in front of us, ready to turn at the right time. I sniff the sweet mix of dried sunblock and apples and a day full of playtime. Raising toddlers means that there are very few moments of ‘quiet and calm’ in our home. Our boys prefer to be roaring dinosaurs exploring the tops of my furniture to doing activities that require them to sit still.

The current single exception? Story time. “Would you like me to read you a story?” I ask, and off they run to their bookshelf to choose which adventures we will go on for the evening.

We settle in our favourite story-time spot, my eldest on my right and my youngest on my left, and I begin. “Wise old man, won’t you help me please? My house is a squash and a … SKWARK!” I exclaim with a glint of mischief in my eyes that I believe would get Julia Donaldson’s approval. This sends them into a fit of giggles and exuberant head-shaking – every time!

“No, Mommy. It’s a squash and a SQUEEZE!” They both yell, wrapping their arms around me in demonstration. “Oh is it really?” I ask, squeezing them back.

There are times where I miss my babies. My growing boys are, rightly, more selective with their affection. They seldom nap in my arms. They are too busy enjoying their growing independence. I get it, I really do, but oh how grateful I am for story time. Our bodies hug each other, our heads bend in and my boys are happy to just be. We create our own little world and our own rhythm and I’ve come to treasure this space in the bustle of our daily lives.

As a working mom, the burden of guilt is constant. I do not have endless time to spend taking in the wonder of my precious boys. I have to find creative ways to be in their world. Reading together sparks endless and often surprising conversations. Story time can be so much more than the story. It can be tickles and songs and squeals.

Story time is not only for the kids. I find myself drawn to the baritone lilts in my husband’s voice as he brings the book characters to life. We are both amused and amazed by our three-year-old’s ability to recall and recreate his version of his favourite tales. More questions, more belly laughs, more interpretations. Our family comes together around books. They fill our home, our car, our conversations and our imaginations.

You can join Julie Mentor and her team at Embrace at the Kids at the Centre event which takes place on Saturday 18 November at the Company’s Garden in Cape Town from 10am – 2pm. Together with Nal’ibali and a host of partners, the event will celebrate all children and focus on fun interaction through a variety of activities including a dedicated space for sharing the love of storytelling and reading as a family.

Reading and telling stories with your children is a powerful gift to them. It builds knowledge, language, imagination and school success! For more information about the Nal’ibali campaign, or to access children’s stories in a range of South African languages, visit:


Please register or log in to comment