Cressida Cowell's tips for parents

Cressida Cowell grew up in London and on a small, uninhabited island off the west coast of Scotland. She was convinced that there were dragons living on this island, and has been fascinated by dragons ever since. Cressida has written and illustrated ten books in the popular Hiccup series which is now published in 35 languages. Also the author of picture books, Cressida has won the Nestle Children's Book Prize 2006 and has been shortlisted for many others. Cressida lives in Hammersmith with her husband and three children.

Q: What books did you read when you were a child?
A: I read a wide variety of books. Domestic books like Noel Streatfeild, Enid Blyton but my particular  was for fantasy like Diana Wynne Jones, Ursula Le Guin, Tolkien and Lloyd Alexander.

Q: If you could be a storybook character who would you be?
A: I would have to say Pippi Longstocking – cheeky and strong without any visible parents. She can carry her horse over her head!

Q: What is the best thing about reading?
A: It’s like opening a door into a magical world in which anything is possible. You can walk around in someone else’s skin. Live in times and places other than your own.

Q: What is your all time favourite book?
A: My favourite book as a child was The Ogre Downstairs by Diana Wynne Jones.

Q: Other than reading books what is the most important thing a parent can do to help develop their children’s communication skills?
Reading a book with a child, even an older child, is the most important thing you can do for improving literacy and communication skills because books read to a child in their parent’s voice will live with them forever. Sharing a book with your child, whatever their age, communicates how important books are. The other thing that is very important is to talk with your child about politics and other ideas that you may think are too complicated for a child to understand. Children are remarkably intelligent and it’s never too young to start teaching them about the world they are living in and their responsibility to society and those around them.

Q: How big a part did your parents play in encouraging your writing skills?
A: They played an enormous part, even though neither of them were writers. They read stories aloud to me, we lived in a house filled with books, we discussed politics and philosophy endlessly, and they took me to plays, films and art galleries. Reading is the beginning of writing so this was so important. Every summer they took me away to a deserted island with no television on which we were forced to make our own amusements, like writing stories and making up plays. Boredom is good for creativity.

Q: How do you encourage your children to read, what books do you enjoy reading with them?
A: I read aloud with them, even now they’re older, both picture books and older books. I take them to libraries, bookshops and second hand bookshops. Libraries and second hand bookshops are particularly for children experimenting and trying books that they might not have expected to like. We listen to audio books in the car. We enjoy reading endless books, everything from picture books to books for older children. At the moment I’m reading Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince with my son and he can sense my genuine enjoyment of it. I’m trying to read him Percy Jackson but he’s finding it too scary so I’ve had to temporarily give up.

Read more author interviews here.

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