The Tale of One Third Stories | One Third Stories  

Once upon a time, there was a boy called Jonny (on the right) who, like many British people, had grown up struggling to learn a foreign language. French just didn’t appeal to him at the time, his French teacher had a cockney accent and boring old grammar books failed to capture his imagination. It was only when he grew up that he realised how great it would be to speak a foreign language.

Towards the end of his time at school, he met Alex (on the left) who had just moved to the UK from Paraguay. Alex had been lucky enough to grow up bilingual English and Spanish, his mum had always spoken to him in English and his dad in Spanish. It didn’t take him long to realise how unique knowing a foreign language was within his friendship group, and how fortunate he was to be able to speak more than one.

Young Alex & Jonny

Young Alex & Jonny

At school, Alex, Jonny and ten other friends took part in a Young Enterprise project (a school business programme). The team published a story that told of a penguin who travelled the world, and learnt about foreign languages and cultures. Jonny wrote the book and Alex got to dress up as said penguin, something they do to this day. As a team they sold quite a few books, but when university came around they thought nothing else of it and moved on.

Jonny went off to Nottingham University to study Literature, Linguistics and Creative Writing, while Alex learnt a few more languages at the University of Exeter. They kept in touch and, at some point during their studies, decided to revisit the idea of putting their contrasting language learning experiences to good use.

They came up with a simple concept of gradually introducing words in a foreign language into the narrative of a story. It was very much a side project at first, but they received an incredible amount of positive feedback from the teachers, parents and children, which encouraged them to keep going. With the support of these people and a lot of hard work they developed the Clockwork Methodology®, to create children’s books that start in English and end in a different language.

They decided to make things official and start One Third Stories in April 2015. Alex was still at university, but upon graduating he and Jonny began working on the business full-time. They spent months testing out various prototypes, revisiting different iterations and figuring out whether there was enough interest from parents and children. One of their proudest moments came from the idea to ‘kidsource’ ideas for their first book, which saw over 1,500 children submitting the whackiest of ideas – ranging from dinosaurs with leather footwear to famous works of art coming to life!

Jonny and Alex with Entries

Jonny and Alex with Entries (photo credit to Keiron Hillhouse at Beds on Sunday)

Just over a year after they founded One Third Stories, they launched the kid-inspired storybook range on Kickstarter. The target they set for the campaign would allow them to cover the costs of their first print run and hire an amazing illustrator that they had serendipitously found, Hannah Hutchings. They certainly didn’t expect that the campaign would end up far surpassing their target with over a thousand backers from over 40 countries, and receive the endorsement of renown institutions like the Spanish Embassy, the Goethe-Institut and Nottingham University.

It would be easy to say that they always had a grand ambition to change the world of language learning, they didn’t. However, that is exactly what they aspire to do now. Stories are full of magic, and in a couple of weeks there will be over a thousand teachers, parents and children that will experience the magic in this language learning story.

One Third Stories isn’t going to succeed because of Alex and Jonny. It will succeed because there is a community of people who is supporting them and share their passion to inspire children to learn and love foreign languages.

It's a team effort (Alex is the one 'penguined up')

A long time in the making (Alex is the one ‘penguined up’)