FOR a decade it had been sat on a shelf, the messy scrawl of words a reminder of memories from her sons' childhood.

This year Deborah Cox has turned her children's own storybook, penned with her help when they were just five and seven years old, into a printed and illustrated work.

She has now launched a small publishing venture to encourage other parents and children to do the same, writing a fictional story in partnership with each other, and has offered to pay the cost of graphics and printing to turn their ideas into reality.

Ms Cox, who lives in Chipping Norton, said: "I was inspired by my experience with my own kids, making up stories together.

“Kids can come up with really original and strange characters and stories, and resonate more with their own age groups."

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Her new independent publishing platform, called Little Ox Press, aims to inspire children's literary creativity and bridge divides between generations.

Ms Cox is inviting parents to send her stories, providing they have either been written or illustrated by a child under the age of 18, and is offering to cover the cost of graphic design, printing and marketing to turn it into a more polished product, if there is potential in it.

She said: “I’m not expecting to make money - I just wanted it to be my hobby.

“I worked on the first little book with my kids and I suppose I just think it’s nice to have something that you can feel proud of.”

Ms Cox holds a controversial opinion of some of the nation's most treasured children's books, including the ever-popular tale We're Going on a Bear Hunt.

She said: “It’s so awful, I can’t even think of words to describe it.

“We [my sons and I] would read lots of children’s books together, and some were really quite nauseating, written by adults trying to appeal to children in a horribly patronising, almost offensive way.

“It made me think that there might be a market for books written or illustrated by children. I’m not sure if there’s something like it already but I haven’t come across it before."

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She admitted parenting young children 'can be a drag' and a joint project would give both parties mutual ground to discuss.

She said: "If it’s an adult and a child collaborating, you might end up with something that can be published.

“Even if it can’t be published, people can still have fun making it.

"I think this could encourage people to contribute something really good for the family - communication, respect and something that can spark a lot of good conversations."

Her sons Jack Nichols, 17, who has just finished at The Cherwell School in Oxford, and John Nichols, 15, who is still a student there, came up with an idea for a book when they were much younger, about a Japanese dragon.

This year she got round to publishing and making copies of the book, entitled Odragono.

Ms Cox said: “It was a long time ago, about 10 years ago, that we did this story together.

“They came up with this very quirky, strange idea that was inspired by all the stories they were reading as kids, like Curious George, and it became their own funny little story.

“I’m not an illustrator but I tried to do pictures to go with it. I was trying to find something to do with them that wasn’t going to kill their brain cells, and found that kids can come up with some really cool, weird ideas."

The Oxford Times:

Jack and John Nichols

Ms Cox studied film aesthetics at St John’s College, Oxford, and has also worked for a Brackley-based publisher.

She said: “I’ve always enjoyed creative writing and I’ve had some poetry published.

"We [the children and I] would create ‘books’ out of folded paper, stapled down the middle, and inventing stories inspired fun conversations."

Odragono, in its basic form, had been sat at her home ever since, until she rediscovered its potential this year.

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She said: "It’s just been sat on my shelf with my illustrations and their childish writing, and I’ve only just got round to it [getting it printed] - life is busy.

“I made copies and I’ve just given them to friends.

“The boys were really helpful in giving me their feedback recently on the design and cover and logo, so even now they are older they have still had an input."

Advising others on how to broach the project, she said: “I would just have a playful conversation that parents can develop, if they imagine something and let it carry on - parents make up lots of funny stories for their kids at bedtime,

“They can develop the story together and decide where their child’s interests lie, whether that’s in the writing side or the illustrating, and just work on it together.

“I am happy to work with them in developing the cover and graphics.”

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Oxfordshire is home to several initiatives to get children excited about books, reading and writing, including children’s book review website Toppsta.

The website’s founder Georgina Atwell, who lives in Summertown, created the site to encourage youngsters to read for pleasure.

Reading charity ARCh, based in Bicester, helps hundreds of children every year with their literacy skills, by training volunteers to go into primary schools and read with pupils.

Anyone interested in finding out more or submitting a story to Ms Cox can visit littleoxpress.co.uk.