From Words to Worlds – The Power of Stories

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As part of our International Day of the Girl Campaign, we’ve invited many amazing women to share their experiences of girlhood with guest blogs. Positive role modelling is an important part of building and maintaining girls’ confidence in themselves.

You can take part in the campaign by taking a minute to share advice for girls today on our virtual wall.

But first, meet today’s guest blogger, Ewa Jozefkowicz, children’s author.

I’ve had my nose in a book from the moment I learnt to read. My parents would often find me curled up on my bed after school lost so deeply in a story that I hadn’t even heard them calling me down for dinner.

I read under the covers with a torch, and slept through alarms, only to doze off in the car on the way to school. And this was just the beginning.

Throughout the years, I read more and more – during university lectures, tucked strategically behind pillars so the professors couldn’t see, and under the till while working in a furniture store at weekends.  

I discovered some strange worlds and amazing places, and I was always hungry to learn about other countries and cultures – to spot the differences, and maybe even more fascinatingly, the similarities to my own experiences.

Many years later, I would decide to write my own story, and nervously send it out to literary agents and publishers, keeping all my fingers crossed.   

But thinking back to those early years of voracious reading, I realise now that it wasn’t just about a love of stories – I read because books were a brilliant way to escape the worries of my own life.

I found myself seeking out characters who might have shared them.

I loved Jacqueline Wilson’s books in particular, as they weren’t about fairytale lands or distant universes – but about girls who were worried about why their best friend wasn’t talking to them, or why their parents were rowing again.

‘Bad Girls’ is still up there among my favourite books of all time. And surely if Jacqueline was writing these stories and people were buying them, there were other girls out there with worries just like mine.

Maybe they could relate to them like I could?   

So, when I became a writer, I decided to do the same. There’s a bit of my own experience in every book I’ve written.

My stories are aimed mainly at girls in that tricky age, on the cusp of starting secondary school, when everything is a bit uncertain and you’re trying to find your place in the world.  

One thing I always stress is that I was incredibly lucky in my writing experience – I had English teachers who encouraged me in my creativity and supportive friends who would listen to ideas.

Speaking to other writers, I’ve learnt that this isn’t often the case, particularly for girls.

And even now, when I visit schools to deliver creative writing workshops, I see girls who are afraid to put their hand up, or to volunteer to read their story aloud – which is particularly sad, as the writing is very often outstanding.  

So, I try to do everything I can to encourage them.

And of course, one way to do this is through reading for pleasure. Below is a list of just some of the books I’ve loved over the years, with female heroines who are not superheroes, or goddesses, but regular girls finding a space for themselves and slowly figuring things out.

It’s by no means an exhaustive list, but I hope it might be the start of something special.  

  • ‘The House on The Edge’ – Alex Cotter 
  • ‘My Name is Sunshine Simpson’ – G.M. Linton 
  • ‘The Small Things’ – Lisa Thompson 
  • ‘The Tiger Who Sleeps Under My Chair’ –  Hannah Foley 
  • ‘Bad Girls’ – Jacqueline Wilson 
  • ‘My Sister Lives on The Mantelpiece’ – Annabel Pitcher 

Thank you to Ewa for sharing your story of girlhood. We hope all women reading this will join in by sharing their stories and advice on our virtual wall. You can find Ewa on Instagram and Twitter

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