'I see what's going on in my mind'

Rosie Millard talks to Catherine Bailey about the books she reads to her children. Right, rules for our short story competition

Catherine Bailey is a model, "does wardrobe" and is mother of Paloma (9), Fenton (7) and Sasha (10 months). She is married to the photographer David Bailey. Fenton goes to Mount House school in Tavistock.

Catherine: I always read to Fenton at bedtime when everyone's a bit more peaceful. I used to read to him and Paloma separately, but now they're a bit older, and the plots of the books we're reading are a bit more complex, I read to them together. Otherwise it goes on for such a long time. I'd be doing it all night.

Their current favourite is Dick King-Smith, things like the Sheep-Pig and Pigs Might Fly. I started Alice in Wonderland with them, but they didn't much like it. I think the plot was a bit too difficult, or maybe I was just too enthusiastic about it. And The Water Babies went back on the shelf with about one chapter read - it was terribly slow. I find sometimes if the book is too difficult, you have to spend all your time explaining the plot, and then it isn't really a story.

Fenton loves fairy stories, and we've been through all the Hans Christian Andersen ones. I'm looking forward to reading CS Lewis to him. I like having his company at this peaceful time, having him listen rather than bickering with his sister. Reading them both stories gives you more feedback than just having a video tell them a story. You can share things with them, and understand what sort of things they like.

At the moment I'm reading Never Tell a Secret, by Joyce Strager, to them. It was an old book of mine which I found in the attic. Fenton's finding it a bit difficult, but he says he enjoys it. He also likes me reading his dinosaur magazines. We have to sit and go through them, but personally I prefer telling them stories.

Does David ever read to them? You must be joking! I don't think he could stand the stories. He says he'll do it when they're older. But he does lots of other things with them."

Fenton: Dick King-Smith makes he laugh, he's very funny. And some of my school-books are very good. I can read them in a couple of minutes, but I prefer being read to. When Mummy's reading to me, I lie in bed and stare at her. I can imagine what's going on in the book, even if there are no pictures. I see what's going on in my mind. It makes me happy.

I like it when she reads my dinosaur magazines and Bug magazines. I've got all the dinosaur magazines, and I'm collecting all the Bug ones. I like it when Mummy reads them to me, but I think she finds them boring. I can tell. She just looks bored. She prefers things like Never Tell a Secret, which we're reading at the moment. She got it when she was a kid.

Mummy helps me keep up with the plot. Paloma never helps me. She just lies in bed. Mummy stops all the time to explain what's going on. No, I don't want Paloma to help me. She's not really my friend, actually.


You are invited to submit short stories of 1,500 to 2,500 words, written for six- to nine-year-olds. There is a £2,000 prize for the winner and £500 for each of the two runners up. The stories must arrive before 9 May at: Story of the Year competition, PO Box 3908, London NW1 OAQ.

You may enter only once, and entries must be made by the writer, not on his or her behalf. Entries must be typewritten, double-spaced and on one side of the paper only. We regret that stories cannot be returned, so please take a photocopy. The stories submitted must be unpublished elsewhere, but the competition is open to previously published writers. We will not accept stories with illustrations. The first page entry must consist only of your name, address, and telephone number. The story should start on separate sheet, with no name on any of the pages, so that it can be judged anonymously.

The winning story will be published in the Independent in early June. The top three stories and up to 10 other entries will be published in the autumn in a Story of the Year 3 anthology by Scholastic Children's Books ( a list of stories chosen will be published in the Independent at the same time).

The competition is not open to employees of, or relatives of employees of, Scholastic Publications Ltd or Newspaper Publishing plc. The judges' decision will be final, and no correspondence can be entered into. Entry grants Scholastic Publications Ltd and Newspaper Publishing plc the exclusive rights to publish your story throughout the world. Any story chosen for publication in the anthology that does not win one of the top three cash prizes will receive a flat fee in accordance with publishing practice. If your story is not published in the anthology or the newspaper by the end of 1995, these rights revert to you.

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