Monday, January 23, 2012

Volunteering with The Ministry of Stories

Behind this unassuming storefront on Hoxton Street Market lies a very exciting creative space for young writers. Run by a group of passionate volunteers, the Ministry of Stories was founded in 2010 by Nick Hornby, Lucy Macnab and Ben Payne with the simple mission of helping kids become better writers and learn more about writing and reading.

I first heard about Ministry of Stories through a graphic design blog as a case study by a local small creative studio; they had done all of the graphics for the Ministry of Stories and its Monster Supplies (the storefront, which allows it to be in a commercial property), and I fell in love with what MoS is trying to do in a still underserved community.

So last year I went for a mentor training session, a full day affair that ended with a CRB form I had to take away and fill out to ensure I wasn't a child molester, reference forms for current and past jobs, and a lot of excitement about working with kids and helping them learn to love writing.

And then, I didn't do anything with it. A friend of mine pointed out to me on Saturday night that I did go and leave my job and start a new one and then train for and run a marathon, so you know, I was busy. But I always felt bad about not following through, so earlier this year I logged on to the MoS and found an open Saturday drop in session (most of their activities are during the work week, in the middle of the day, which is really unfortunate for me) and just signed up.

This past Saturday was the day and it was fantastic. 1.5 hours with 30 8-13 year olds is quite challenging, but also really rewarding. About half way through, I found myself with a difficult student and was really proud that I could get her to concentrate on a task and help her get some meaning from the session. It was also really amazing to see the dedication and ambition of some of the older kids, who come weekly with stories they have been working on for a while – one girl is writing a detective novel about a private eye, while another boy is writing a novel about a child who works in a factory and grows up to be Prime Minister. I was really impressed by them and their enthusiasm and optimism.

I fairly sailed out of the Monster Shop that afternoon, and directly to a computer to sign up for another mentoring spot. My next session is in March and I can't wait – it really is one of the most enjoyable ways I've found to spend a Saturday morning.


  1. Good for you! I know of this sort of setup through the 826 Valencia crowd. I've vaguely looked for volunteering opportunities here and mostly failed.

  2. Yes! The MoS was inspired by 826 Valencia. There is also one in Brooklyn called Superhero Supply Store that fronts 826NYC. But this is actually really cute, uniquely British, and I'm glad to have gotten involved. You can do it, Knile.