John Hickman

What books did you read when you were a child?
I read loads when I was a kid and I was a big fan of Roald Dahl books, like everyone else and loved Fantastic Mr. Fox. I read a lot of factual books and I was obsessed with robots and dinosaurs. I loved comics too – The Beano, Dandy, all that stuff, as well as Marvel and 2000 AD.

If you could be a storybook character who would you be?
I always wanted to be Flat Stanley from the Flat Stanley books. No idea why really, other than I liked the idea of being posted through letterboxes!

What is the best thing about reading?
For me, it's that ability to be able to go to places I've never been, see things I've never seen, and meet characters I wouldn't ever meet. It really opens your mind and teaches you how to see things from other people's perspectives, and let's face it, if we did that more, the world would be a much better place.

What is your all-time favourite book?
Skellig by David Almond is my all-time favourite book. It's a beautiful story, which deals with complex themes in such a simple, clear way, anyone can understand them. To me, that's the mark of truly great writing.

Other than reading books what is the most important thing a parent can do to help develop their children’s communication skills?
I think any activity that involves spending time with children is helpful. I also think encouraging children to interact and play with siblings and friends helps develop their social and interpersonal skills alongside their communication skills.

How big a part did your parents play in encouraging your writing skills?
My mum was massively influential over me as a child, encouraging me to write and draw, and follow my dreams. The fact I'm a professional writer today is largely due to her support.

How do you encourage your children or grandchildren to read, what books do you enjoy reading with them?
I don't think you can go wrong with Roald Dahl books, they really do stand the test of time. I'm also a big fan of Andy Stanton's Mr. Gum books – they're hilarious! I know a lot of parents have enjoyed reading my book, Freaks United, about a group of underdogs who form their own football team, with their children, even if they're not massively into football.

John is a screenwriter, director and author based in Newcastle upon Tyne. As well as writing for TV shows such as EastEnders and The Dumping Ground, his first children's book Freaks United was nominated for the James Reckitt Children's Book Award. His new book series The Football Trials will be published in 2018. Formerly a social worker, John has an MA in Creative Writing as well as a PhD, with a focus on the onscreen fictional depiction of looked-after children.

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