The game of Storyhaven
Hours of class time and schedule
Preview the materials
CPD sessions for teachers
How to get started
Integration with National curriculums
Cross-curriculum learning opportunities
Non-native English-speaking students and use in ESL or EFL classrooms
Deep in Earth's next ice age, stories have become the fuel for life. In the remote outpost of Storyhaven the townsfolk gather to tell their tales. Now though, this precious resource is disappearing. Someone is stealing the town's stories. Deprived of their fuel the fablehearths will go out, the ice will creep back in and families will perish in their beds. In a last desperate roll of the dice, the town’s story shamans develop a perilous means of time travel to allow their most intrepid explorers to journey back into the past to save the town's tales before they can disappear.
Children reading for pleasure at 10 years old is a stronger predictor of academic success than parents’ level of education (Sullivan & Brown, 2015). The powerful mental stimulus of reading boosts children's creativity and literacy skills, as well as positive social and emotional development (Whitten et al., 2016). Reading for pleasure, however, is on the decline as books must compete with video games, streaming TV and mobile phones for children's attention (Clarke & Picton, 2020). Social media like Instagram and Tiktok is increasingly recognised as damaging to young people's mental wellbeing (Rogers & Rousseau, 2022), monetising their need for social recognition from their peers to generate advertising revenue.
Storyhaven is an immersive reading and roleplaying game for students aged 7-13 years, in which they become adventurers from the town of Storyhaven, sent back into the past to save the townsfolk's tales and rewrite them.
By creating a richly social reading experience and bringing the story world to life through immersive theatre techniques, Storyhaven aims to encourage more children into reading for pleasure, as well as challenging established readers with an innovative new format for children's fiction that encourages them to co-author the narrative alongside us.
Storyhaven can be run in real or virtual classrooms with groups of 2-6 students as part of their literacy, reading, drama, Technology/ICT, or English lessons.
It also works well as a school library or reading club activity to draw reluctant reader students into using the library space more and encourage a love of stories and books. As Storyhaven blends group reading at school with lone reading tasks at home, it helps to build peer and family support for children's reading development.
Storyhaven's main engagement is driven by a richly illustrated reading game that can be played on a mobile phone, tablet or laptop. It helps children design their own characters, then navigate their way through episodes of a branching narrative (choose-your-own-adventure story) in teams, talking decisions over together in a way that creates a fun, bonding social experience and builds skills of negotiation and compromise, peer-group integration and mental wellbeing.
Episodes designed for group play lead into episodes to be read alone, which differentiates players' experience of the story, promoting dialogue in the next session of team play. This harnesses social peer-group experiences to power real changes to children’s reading habits at home, which can be transformative for children from underprivileged backgrounds.
Storyhaven’s use of digital storytelling and gaming techniques defamiliarizes the book form of reading, which many reluctant readers might immediately identify as being an activity that is not for them, or at which they routinely see themselves as failing. During the piloting of Storyhaven in UK schools, the way it enticed reluctant readers into a richly complex and prolonged reading experience, welcoming them into the club of reading and books, was a real strength and innovation of the project.
Children are invited to create their own player characters from one of the Storyhaven town guilds, which gives them different skills to use during gameplay, allowing every player to feel like they have contributed to the success of the mission. The illustrations have been designed to be an inclusive invitation for diverse children to imagine themselves at the heart of the adventure.
Opportunities for student’s creative writing and drama are woven into the storyline of them being adventurers travelling back into the past to save the town’s stories before they disappear. The stories the students must save and rewrite on their mission are represented in the narrative by crystal rune stones that important members of the town carry around with them to honour their story. Each stone holds a key meaning from their tale, teaching the students that stories can be taken apart and retold in different ways, which fosters narrative experimentation in their own creative writing. This narrative device means the writing tasks make sense and have real purpose for children within the experience.
Further literacy-building activities take the form of a richly visual series of worksheets that can easily be printed off or screen shared by the teacher, posted on a class blog or emailed to parents. As the children progress through the story they compile these activity sheets into an adventure journal to increase their ownership of the experience and to produce a tangible literacy achievement by its end, which they might share with family and friends. This boosts their ownership of the reading experience and helps build their literacy skills of note-taking, creative writing and drawing, as well as promoting responsibility for their own learning processes.
Children's immersion in the experience is supported by physical props like a map of the town that can be printed off and given to each student, boosting their ownership of the literacy activity.
Placed in the centre of their gameplay table, it serves as a focus for their’ shared imagining of the story world, further encouraging discussion and the sharing of experiences from the lone reading episodes.
The episodes of the narrative game lead up to thrilling moments of creativity and cocreation, during which students tell the stories they have saved and rewritten to each other, symbolising sending them back through the time portal. This intimate face-to-face oral storytelling, which can be so transformative of students powers of self-expresssion and confidence in their creative abilities, is supported by video messages from actors playing the town story shaman from the narrative, who receives their stories in the imperilled present of the town. These can be watched on tablets or mobiles by teams playing in the school library space or on a projector screen or interactive white board as a whole class creative writing or drama activity, allowing the magic and danger of the story world to infuse the student’s creative work.
If the school wishes, this video content can be replaced by live immersive theatre performances streamed to the classroom via Zoom, so that our actors can interact with the children as they perform their stories. With dramatic sound and lighting effects, the children love how these sessions bring the story world to life and allow them to get bespoke feedback on their creativity from the funny, warm-hearted character of the story shaman. These performances can be shared simultaneously by different classes in your school. Partnering up to share them with another school locally would allow you to share the cost of the live performance across two school budgets and give your students the extra motivation to strive to produce their best work.
The game is accompanied by access to the website, where children can read more about the story world, explore an interactive town map that will allow them to enter its buildings and meet more characters.
They can upload the stories and artwork they have created during the game to be featured in galleries of player content, read those submitted by other children, and win prizes that will further encourage them in their reading journeys.
There are two versions of Storyhaven included in the digital materials to give teachers and librarians flexibility with how much time they want to dedicate to the experience:
9.5 hours class/library time over 1-4 weeks
1-2 hours reading at home
15 hours class/library time over 2-6 weeks or as a whole term project
2-4 hours reading at home
Storyhaven’s rich, narrative-driven engagement can easily be extended beyond these hours into further activities, ideas for which will be included in the teacher's notes.
See an example of the teacher's notes here.
Read an excerpt from the reading game here.
Explore the immersive child-facing area of the website here.
A Wonderspun practitioner with experience running Storyhaven in schools can provide online training sessions for up to 6 teachers/librarians from the same school who are interested in running the experience.
These could count as Continuing Professional Development/Education in the following areas:
Reading and writing development
English language and literacy
Fostering self-expression and creativity
Boosting dialogue, negotiation and empathy
Encouraging use of library and reading practices at home
Creative writing development
Inclusion and diversity
Drama, roleplay and immersive theatre techniques
Interactive fiction and games in learning
Purchase access to the teaching materials, boxed game, training sessions and live performance here:
If you're not ready to purchase the materials yet, your students can still begin engaging with the story world for free by exploring an interactive map of Storyhaven. You could also give them the address www.storyhaven.app to visit on their own devices at home to test their enthusiasm for playing the game.
UK National Curriculum English Programme of Study: Key stages 2 & 3
Success for All Literacy Programme
For how Storyhaven would integrate into further national curriculums or programmes, please contact us directly at email@example.com
Storyhaven encourages the deep learning and transferable skills that come from from cross-curricular projects.
There are opportunities for the pupils to make theatrical props to support their reading and writing adventure, linking with subjects like Art and Design, Design and technology, or Drama groups. Its incorporation of mobile phones and tablets into a new media narrative form brings ICT into play. The branching narrative was designed on Twine, an open-source tool for telling interactive, nonlinear stories that students could also use themselves after Storyhaven to start learning about programming, coding, and digital storytelling.
The narrative touches on themes of immigration, climate change, geography, astronomy, diversity, world history, oral storytelling, and technological and scientific innovation that allows it to be easily integrated with cross-curricular projects and term topics that your school already has up and running.
In our team we have over twenty years' experience of Teaching English as a Foreign Language at institutions like the British Council in different countries across the world. We strongly believe that Storyhaven’s group-reading dynamics allows stronger readers to support weaker ones as teams negotiate the narrative together. Its chunked text breaks down a long novel-length text into smaller, more digestible passages and episodes, gradually leading non-native English speaking children into a rich and prolonged fictional experience in English that could be transformative of their language learning, as well as the reading-for-pleasure habits that are so key to advanced progress with English beyond B2 level of the CEFR. The website has an easy to use language button that instantly translates all page content, so that teachers and parents can can fully understand the project in their own language beforehand.
The branching narrative of Storyhaven breaks a longer reading narrative up into smaller, less overwhelming sections with a coloured background to help the letters stand out. As it is read off to be read off a tablet, mobile or laptop, this allows the size of the text and the number of words per line to be altered too, which can be more comfortable for students with dyslexia.
As Storyhaven is a group activity students can listen to others reading out the passages of the narrative, even if they find it stressful to read out the text themselves. Students can help their team through keeping notes and statistics up to date, drawing and decorating, finding the teams position on the map, or performing the passages that are being read out. This creates an inclusive experience in which every kind of learner can find their place and feel they are contributing to the success of the reading experience.
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