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Ellie* might be described as a shy child. She will watch things very closely, sometimes from a distance, but she needs time to feel confident enough to join in.

She didn’t usually join in with the acting, but she had told a story before, after a few weeks of watching: ‘Lion’. And when she acted it out, she stood in the corner of the stage, and gave the gentlest, most beautiful of little roars, with a cautious curling of fingers to indicate claws. I regret asking everyone to roar like a lion after that, as the giant wall of sound that met my request quite overpowered the beauty of Ellie’s original brave little roar, and she looked somewhat intimidated as she sat down. Lesson learnt: sometimes a lion needs to roar on her own.

Last week, we asked her friend Taylor* to tell a story, which Taylor was eager to do. As Taylor chose a spot to tell her story, I could feel Ellie’s eyes following us around the room, and when I looked over, I could see her craning to see what was happening. It wasn’t long before she started to drift over towards us, pretending to be casual about it, but fully focused on what was happening. When Taylor finished her story, Ellie was close by enough for us to ask if she wanted to tell a story. ‘No’ she said, but she stayed nearby, coming to sit next to us when the next person came along to tell a story. As each next story was told by a different storyteller, Ellie would be there, at the teacher’s elbow, intently watching each word as it was written down, and occasionally looking up at the storyteller’s face for clues on what the next part of the story might be.

After the fifth storyteller had had their turn, we asked Ellie again ‘Would you like to tell us a story?’ She solemnly nodded. ‘Iron Man’ she said. ‘Iron Man can fly.’

And this time, despite the crowd of parents who had turned up to watch the session, despite the line of children before her who didn’t want to come up and act out stories, Ellie proudly accepted every role that was offered to her, coming to stand in the middle of the stage, acting with some caution, but also with quiet conviction.

‘Iron Man. Iron Man can fly.’

*Names have been changed