Suzanne: Of course I don't read enough to them, being a working mother, single parent, and all that. I haven't much time in between scoring crack and stealing giros ... I know it's supposed to be a great joy, but sometimes it's the last thing you want to do. Bliss is at that stage where what she can read for herself is so much less sophisticated than what she wants read to her.
I am conscious, because of my other daughter, Scarlet, who is 12, that you canoverload them with stuff you like - the Narnia books and so on - before they are ready. Kids are like us, they want to feel that they have discovered a book rather than had it forced down their necks.
Scarlet used to adore those Topsy and Tim books, where they go to the dentist or learn to cross the road safely. They were really smug and prim but very moralistic - the naughty boy got run over or all his teeth fell out. Now I'd be grateful if she read anything, but as we've just got cable TV I don't suppose it's likely.
I can't understand why there is only one Roald Dahl. Children don't want niceness, they want gore, retribution and gratuitous violence, just like the rest of us. I think that's why Bliss likes The Magic Lavatory so much. It's a genius thing to combine violence, mayhem and toilets.
I worry about them not reading enough, and then I see their confidence with computers, and I think it's a diferent ball-game. I read a lot when I was a child, to shut down from my family. My mum thought that reading books was a sign of depression and weirdness. I hope they get the idea from me that it can be fun, but by osmosis rather than me nagging them.
It has surprised me how much they like poetry. It makes you wonder what happens in our educational system that we come out of it hating and despising this thing that we used to love. It sounds pretentious to claim that children like poetry more than anything else, but they do, so it must be our problem, not theirs.
Bliss: It's hard when you read, so if you want to relax you can get someone to read to you. My best one The Magic Lavatory. It's about a boy who lives with his Mum and she doesn't let him play at anything and so he looks in his grandad's cupboard, who used to be a science person. He finds some yellow goo that says "magic" on it. He pours it into some cups and spoons and they come alive. Then his Mum got cross and poured it down the loo. The next morning the toilet has come alive and started eating the furniture. Then it eats his Mum. It serves her right because she is so horrible.
Some books are boring, like The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. At school, the Magic Key books are very boring. I've got a Michael Rosen story tape where some stories are true and some aren't. I like some true stories because they are like really magic. I like magic stuff because I believe it.
I like Matilda, because it's a girl who sort of like makes up poems. Poems about horrible grown-ups and stuff. Sometimes I make poems up and tell them to my sister and she writes them down. I would like to read poetry. I don't like writing very much, because you have to keep getting up and down to ask someone how to write the words and that makes you hot and tiredn
How to enter: You are invited to submit stories of 1,500-2,500 words, which must arrive on or before 8 March 1997 at: PO Box 13047, London WC1A 1NR. You may enter only once, and entries must be made by the writer, not on his/her behalf. Entries must be typewritten, double-spaced and on one side of the paper only. We will not accept stories with illustrations. Manuscripts will not be returned, so please keep a copy. All entries must be unpublished, but published writers may enter with new material. Each entry must be submitted with both a cover page and title page. The cover page must feature the story title, and the entrant's name, address and telephone number. The title page must feature only the title of the story. The story should start on a new page, and the author's name must not feature on any page, so that all entries can be judged anonymously. The winning story will be published in The Independent Magazine subsequent to the final judging of the competition, which concludes on 23 May 1997. The top three stories and up to 10 others will be published in the autumn, in the anthology Story of the Year 5, by Scholastic Children's Books.
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