Children's Books: Wanted: the best children's story

The hunt is on for the best new short stories of 1994, stories that no six- to nine-year-old will want to put down. The reward? A pounds 2,000 prize and publication in the Independent for the winning entry. Two joint runners-up will receive pounds 500 each, and the top 10 entries will be printed in a specially produced anthology by Scholastic Children's Books, making these the top awards in this country for unpublished work for children. The invitation is open to professional writers, but we want especially to encourage new talent.

This year's judges include the award-winning writers Anne Fine and Terry Jones and other leading figures in the world of children's literature, as well as children from schools around the country. They will be looking for a shortlist of 20 funny and sad, magical and exciting stories. Write us such a story.

JENNY GILBERT ASKS A FATHER AND SON ABOUT WAYS INTO BOOKS

Chris Difford, 39, songwriter with the band Squeeze, has three children. He lives in Rye, Sussex, with his partner Heidi and their daughter Grace (two). His elder daughter Natalie (13) and son Riley (10) live with their mother in south London, and he sees them most weekends and during school holidays. Riley goes to James Wolfe Primary in Greenwich.

Riley: I quite like Jets books, I get them from school, and I like Biggles. I read it myself, though because I'm dyslexic I sometimes have a few problems. Dad doesn't read to me as much as he used to - I think I've grown out of it now. I read before bed, but only if I'm tired. If I'm not, I'd rather do drawing.

I have a tutor for reading, apart from school, and she's very nice and gives me different books from school. Also, I like Roald Dahl - The Magic Finger and Fantastic Mr Fox are really good.

I like writing stories as well as reading them. Sometimes I copy books out, sometimes I make them up. I wrote a story called 'George's Gran' (I got the idea for the boy from George's Marvellous Medicine by Roald Dahl). This boy has to go and live with his Gran and he doesn't like her - she's really a witch. So he calls in the army and says she's a spy. And he decides to call the German air force, and they come and bomb her.

Chris: When we were all together, we'd always make a big thing of reading to Natalie and Riley. Cindy, my ex, always had her nose in a book, but I'm a bit of a lazy reader myself. Jackanory was what really encouraged me to read to the kids, watching people like Paul Merton, Rik Mayall, Adrian Edmondson . . . . Seeing that it could be done on the television was the inspiration. Putting in all the expression, using different voices, really throwing yourself into it to make an exciting experience for the kids.

I went through a terrible period when I first left home, and started seeing the children at weekends and buying them extravagant things, as people do - until I realised what I was doing, and said: 'Look, instead of these ridiculous gifts, let's get a book and build up a library.'

Now I'm away so much, when I'm at home I try to make the most of it with the kids. Natalie has really got the bug now, and reads on her own every day. Riley's a bit more selective. He's had problems with reading - it's taken five years for him to be assessed as dyslexic.

He's had his confidence bashed, because the other boys are all ahead of him, but he's just making the breakthrough. Only last night he was reading through one of those Crystal Maze mystery stories, and for the first time he was really studying it, not just looking at the pictures. Like all little boys, he's got a lot of other things on his mind. If there's a football match on TV, you won't get him to sit down with a book.

Recently I bought an Apple Mac with a CD-Rom. I've not taught Natalie and Riley how to use it - they have to work it out and read the instructions on the screen themselves. We've got the new Microsoft creative writing program, which is so much fun to do. Riley would actually rather sit down in front of the computer and write his own story and draw his own pictures than read a book.

I would only ever put Riley off buying a book if I thought it was too expensive or too difficult for him. I increasingly find myself having to think twice about what Natalie picks up in the bookshop. I'm concerned about these teenage horror books.

(Photograph omitted)

Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Radio
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
'Youth' cast members Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, and Michael Caine pose for photographers at Cannes Film Festival
film
Arts and Entertainment
Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward and Robin in the 1960s Batman TV show

Comics
Arts and Entertainment
I am flute: Azeem Ward and his now-famous instrument
music
Arts and Entertainment
A glass act: Dr Chris van Tulleken (left) and twin Xand get set for their drinking challenge
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
MIA perform at Lovebox 2014 in London Fields, Hackney

music
Arts and Entertainment
Finnish punk band PKN hope to enter Eurovision 2015 and raise awareness for Down's Syndrome

eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
William Shakespeare on the cover of John Gerard's The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes

books
Arts and Entertainment

Game of Thrones review
Arts and Entertainment
Grayson Perry dedicates his Essex home to Julie

Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treat

tv
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the original Swedish version of the sci-fi TV drama ‘Real Humans’
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Hugh Keays-Byrne plays Immortan Joe, the terrifying gang leader, in the new film
filmActor who played Toecutter returns - but as a different villain in reboot
Arts and Entertainment
Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jessica Hynes in W1A
tvReview: Perhaps the creators of W1A should lay off the copy and paste function spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Power play: Mitsuko Uchida in concert

classical
Arts and Entertainment
Dangerous liaisons: Dominic West, Jake Richard Siciliano, Maura Tierney and Leya Catlett in ‘The Affair’ – a contradictory drama but one which is sure to reel the viewers in
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Herring, pictured performing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival two years ago
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
Music freak: Max Runham in the funfair band
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
film 'I felt under-used by Hollywood'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

    Abuse - and the hell that follows

    James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
    Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

    It's oh so quiet!

    The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
    'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

    'Timeless fashion'

    It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
    If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

    Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

    Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
    New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

    Evolution of swimwear

    From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
    From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

    Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

    'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
    'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

    Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

    This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

    Songs from the bell jar

    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
    How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

    One man's day in high heels

    ...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine