What books did you read when you were a child?
Lots of things with humour and imagination – some of my favourites were Spike Milligan, Asterix, Down With Skool! and the other Nigel Molesworth books, the Narnia series, Lewis Carroll’s Alice books, Anthony Buckeridge’s Jennings books, Alan Garner, Grimm’s Fairy Tales, and myths and legends from Greek and Norse gods to Robin Hood and King Arthur.
If you could be a storybook character who would you be?
William Brown from the Just William series. He has great friends, an excellent dog, and the wits to come out on top in his many schemes and scrapes.
What is the best thing about reading?
It can completely absorb you in times, places and experiences that are quite unlike your own life.
What is your all-time favourite book?
Uncle by J.P.Martin. It’s the wonderfully eccentric story of an elephant who lives in a massive castle called Homeward. Uncle wears a purple dressing gown, and travels round in a traction engine. His arch-enemies, led by Beaver Hateman, live across the way in Badfort. It’s full of wacky places, and characters such as the Respectable Horses and the Little Lion, who can make himself immensely heavy at will. It was a birthday present from my own uncle fifty years ago, and it still makes me laugh.
Other than reading books what is the most important thing a parent can do to help develop their children’s communication skills?
Talk with them (not just at them) – with proper words and sentences, expressing real thoughts and ideas. And try to answer questions when they ask them (even the difficult ones) so they never feel fobbed off.
How big a part did your parents play in encouraging your writing skills?
Writers all start as readers, and there was a lot of reading when I was a small child, first being read to and later steered to reading the first few lines of any story aloud myself. And there were always books at home, and regular trips to the local library. When it comes to writing, I think they just let me get on with it – not just school work but silly sketches and dreadful adolescent poems, and articles for the school newspaper. The most important thing was that on the whole they didn’t pry into what I was writing – flicking through your children’s notebooks is a great way to stop them expressing themselves, I think.
How do you encourage your children or grandchildren to read, what books do you enjoy reading with them?
Children – two boys who are now teenagers, so too old to sit on the sofa for story time (I still miss it). Either my wife or I used to read aloud to them every night, graduating from picture books (Richard Scarry’s were big favourites, and great for riffing around and making them laugh) and comic strips (Tintin books have lots of scope for different voices) to the funnies
(we loved Mr.Gum and Just William) and adventures (Young Bond and Alex Rider). If a book was dull we stopped after a few nights and picked up something else instead – there was no sense of obligation to finish what was started if the book didn’t deserve it.
Simon Cherry spent most of his working life as a producer and director in the ITV Arts Department under Melvyn Bragg, but has also worked as a journalist, playwright, bookseller and arts promoter. A Mancunian by birth and temperament, he now lives in Surrey with his wife and twin teenage boys. His first book for children, Eddy Stone and the Epic Holiday Mash-up is out now.
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