Catherine Barr

What books did you read when you were a child?
The book I loved as a child was The Velveteen Rabbit. Later, I became fascinated by Jane Goodall’s books about her relationships with chimpanzees; and I adored and endlessly copied Janet Marsh’s Nature Diary.

If you could be a storybook character who would you be?
There is now a picture book of Jane Goodall’s story Me… Jane by Patrick McDonnell, so I will opt to be her. She is a ‘character' who has changed the way we understand the natural world.

What is the best thing about reading?
Sparking imagination, initiating conversations and deepening understanding about life, people and the world around us. And of course, the peace and joy of being immersed in a good book.

What is your all time favourite book?
There are many but The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein stands out.

Other than reading books what is the most important thing a parent can do to help develop their children’s communication skills?
Empathy and patient listening both help to encourage conversation, the sharing of stories, feelings, news and ideas. With two teenagers, I am still learning!

How big a part did your parents play in encouraging your writing skills?
My father scribbled poetry on old envelopes and my mother was a local campaigner. As I have grown up, I have embraced the joy and power of words to inspire curiosity and change.

How do you encourage your children or grandchildren to read, what books do you enjoy reading with them?
When my girls were young, we took it turns to pick pages and create quizzes from You Choose, DK Children’s WOW: The Visual Encyclopedia of Everything and other nonfiction books: it kick started conversation and questions.

I am currently reading The Road by Rose Tremain to my 16 year old.

Catherine was inspired to write her first book The Story of Life after searching in vain for a narrative on evolution. With a degree in ecology, Catherine began her career working with Greenpeace on wildlife issues before becoming an editor at the Natural History Museum.

She now lives on the Welsh borders where she is a partner in communications agency bwa.design, patron of reading for a local school and exploring a range of nonfiction stories. Her latest books are 10 Reasons to Love… an animal conservation series with the Natural History Museum and Red Alert! an interactive book on endangered species.

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