The Independent / Scholastic Story of the Year: One year on: a winner's tale: Janet Boateng and Mirabelle

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Janet Boateng, 38, is married to the Labour MP for Brent South, Paul Boateng. They live in Wembley with their five children, two boys and three girls aged between 7 and 13. A former social worker, she is studying for an MA in social policy. Mirabelle, their eldest, goes to St Marylebone C of E school for girls.

Mirabelle: I've been collecting books since I was about six, so I've got a lot. I don't mind sharing them with my sisters, but they don't really have my interests.

Now and again something I have to read for school will be something I'll want to read again. We read some Ursula Le Guin a long time ago, and Cider with Rosie is not bad. Romeo and Juliet was good.

When I was younger I liked Roald Dahl a lot: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The BFG, Matilda. I read a lot of Enid Blyton, but I didn't like them much. I read them when I was about 9 or 10 and they were a bit boring, too simple I suppose. I preferred the Nancy Drew books and I've got about 40 of them. They're mysteries, but they've got a bit of romance in them at the same time. The difference is that the girls have boyfriends, not just boys who are friends. No, I haven't got a boyfriend, I just like reading about them.

I like Virginia Andrews' books - they're romantic stories - I enjoy historical novels, like Catherine Cookson, and horror books, like Stephen King. My parents don't really mind. They sometimes say, 'Isn't that a bit scary for you?' but I think they know it's OK really. Sometimes I buy my own books, sometimes my dad buys them, or my mum. They know what I like.

I probably read the most of anyone in my house except my parents - usually in my bedroom, to get a bit of peace and quiet. My parents used to read to me a lot, but they stopped when I was about 10. Now they read to my younger sisters and brothers, and sometimes I read to my brothers.

Nowadays I like Sherlock Holmes - Scandal in Bohemia, The Silver Blaze, The Adventure of the Copper Beeches, The Sussex Vampire. They're not as bad as they sound, and even though I often read them in bed at night they never make me feel nervous.

Janet: Choosing books and reading together has always been a strong part of what we do as a family, though the three girls now read on their own. I still read to the boys, the younger ones. It's just not the same for them at school - when there are 30-35 in a class, children just can't get the personal attention to reading that they need, and when the teacher reads aloud they can't see the pictures or follow the words on the page. I've helped with reading at their school and I know what a difference that close contact makes. A book is a personal thing.

The books on the children's shelves at home are a great cross-section. Recently we've discovered Errol Lloyd, a black writer. His Nina at the Carnival is a favourite. But it's important to give children a balance. It wouldn't be right for them to read just books by black authors. What we look for is the vividness of the writing, and what the children want is an element of fantasy. There's so much wickedness in the world we live in that children need somewhere to escape.

I think PC is very dangerous in children's books - it's stifling. People are now saying you mustn't write about children in the country because most children live in cities. That's just wrong. When I was 12 and living in the Caribbean, I was reading all about the Wessex countryside in Thomas Hardy. When you've never seen snow, you can't quite visualise it - but you can be excited by the descriptions.

I don't want my children to be narrow. I want them to know about every aspect of this country they're living in, and other cultures too. It's a question of publishers encouraging different writers - disabled, black, whatever - so that their community gets represented through their eyes.

I resent it when people say you should see black faces in books. It's not just a question of calling one of the characters Leroy. And Leroy doesn't always have to be the goodie. That's just as false.

I've never had to vet the children's choice of reading. They know when a book is bad, or stereotyping. They just put it down and say, 'This is rubbish]'

When Mirabelle was about seven she got what I called Nancy Drew syndrome - she's a sort of modern Enid Blyton. She read them all, one after the other, then the Famous Five. But I didn't have a problem with that. It's very white and middle-class, but then, that was the period] It's like complaining that James Baldwin only writes about black people's experience of historical events.

(Photograph omitted)

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