Chris Priestley

What books did you read when you were a child?
Far too many to answer in one question! I read a lot of historical fiction when I was 10 or so - I really liked Rosemary Sutcliff and Henry Treece - and Leon Garfield. I loved the Dr. Seuss books when I was younger. I liked myths and legends - Greek myths mainly, but I also remember reading an illustrated version of the Arabian Nights stories. The Jungle Book by Kipling was a favourite too - a present from my gran one Christmas. In my teens I shifted to sci-fi and fantasy with a fair smattering of horror (nearly always in short story form).

If you could be a storybook character who would you be?
I really don’t know. I remember really loving The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe when I borrowed it from the school library. That is still one of the best moments in children’s fiction - when they feel their way through the wardrobe and emerge into the snowy world of Narnia. I’m not sure I’d actually want to be any of those children, but I really wanted to go through that wardrobe when I was a kid.

What is the best thing about reading?
I suppose that depends. There are lots of great things about reading and one of them is just a chance to switch off from the day-to-day world for a while. But it also gives us a chance to walk around in someone else’s shoes and that’s never a bad thing. But I think maybe the most important thing is that it educates our internal voice - it helps us make that voice more articulate and useful. We can fall in and out of love through characters in books, we can be scared and we can be brave. We can be anything.

What is your all time favourite book?
I don’t have an all-time favourite book, any more than I have an all-time favourite film or painting. Certain books have been very important to me - mainly because of the time I read them. When you hit the right book at the right time in your life there is nothing else like it. It feels like the book was written especially for you.

Other than reading books what is the most important thing a parent can do to help develop their children’s communication skills?
I wouldn’t want to suggest I have any expertise outside of being able to write a book, but I think talking to your child and encouraging them to express themselves is important. Try and give them as many experiences as you can. But parenting is tough. We all have busy lives.

How big a part did your parents play in encouraging your writing skills?
I think the fact that my dad was in the army when I was a boy helped because we moved around a lot and I think it made me retreat into my imagination a bit as I always felt like the new boy. Both my parents were keen users of the library too, so although we didn’t have many books in the house, we were always reading. As I got older I then started reading their books when I’d finished mine.

How do you encourage your children or grandchildren to read, what books do you enjoy reading with them?
I don’t read with my son anymore - but only because he’s twenty and won’t let me. No grandchildren either I’m afraid. I do read to children a lot though - at events and in schools - pretty much always my own stuff, of course.

If you want to encourage your children to read then one of the best ways is to read yourself - to normalise the idea of reading for pleasure. Reading to younger children is a lot of fun. If you don’t do it you are missing out on some great stories and a lovely way to bond.

Chris Priestley is an award-winning author of over twenty books for younger readers. He was trained as an illustrator and was a newspaper cartoonist for many years before publishing his first book in 2000. His latest book is Curse of the Werewolf Boy, the first in the Maudlin Towers series of illustrated funny adventures set in a Gothic boarding school in the Lake District.

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