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Thursday 20 February 1997
Diane: Did my mother read to me? I remember reading from when I was about seven or eight but I don't actually remember being read to. It doesn't mean my parents didn't do it though. I remember mum reading bits of the newspaper to me about things but that's about all. I remember my grandfather telling me stories. Things he made up. My own children love to be told stories. I used to tell them fairy stories but now they're more interested in real-life events, things that have happened to friends of mine, things that happened to me when I was younger. And stories about when they were very little. They always love that.
I didn't learn to read till I was five. My mother had this thing that she thought I ought to learn to read at school. She thought I'd get bored if I already knew how to read. I remember learning on "Janet and John" and thinking they were the most tedious things I'd ever read. I used to pretend to have read them because they were so boring. There was no emotional content. Emotional content's very important.
I loved Alice in Wonderland. I was absolutely obsessed with it. I used to read that over and over again. The bit where she drowns in the tears I found very disturbing and very bizarre. When I was a bit older I loved Enid Blyton, mostly the girls school stuff, Mallory Towers and St Clare's. It wasn't my culture at all, I was from a very family-oriented Jewish culture, so I found it very exciting. These people didn't speak the way anyone I knew spoke and the concept of boarding school was very alien. Horses! I never went near a horse. French lessons! We didn't have French at primary school so the idea of French lessons with "Mademoiselle" was very exciting.
I remember finding a book about sex for the over-50s in the woods behind my house with a group of friends. We were 11. It had all about how to zap up your sex life, which was all completely astonishing for us and we read this and passed it round. The pages were burnt. It was all terribly exciting. I've no idea how it got into the woods.
I started reading to BJ and Jake very early on with little card books of pictures - when they were still chewing the cardboard. I hated Thomas the Tank Engine. I'm so glad I don't have to read that to them any more - terribly boring, written in this terribly convoluted language. I love reading Roald Dahl to them. He's brilliant to read quietly and to read aloud. It's so well written, it's so full of life, so sparkling and so true, and it's unexpected. He's just a great storyteller. You want to know what happens next but you're really in the moment as well.
I think the tone is very important - it's important to get a sense of innocence but what you enjoy as an adult is the voice of experience somewhere within the voice of innocence. Roald Dahl has that wonderful mixture of the two: somewhere in there is this incredibly cynical man.
I read to them less now because BJ likes to read to himself but sometimes he'll read a bit and then we'll read a bit to him. They're very into football books - they like non-fiction. Jake's teacher said to me that he was reading "inappropriate material" during quiet reading time and I said, "What on earth was he reading?" I thought he had a comic or something and she said, "He was reading the dictionary." She said it should be fiction. BJ's into thriller-ish type books at the moment. He's got a book called Room 13 by Robert Swindells that he thinks is the best book.
BJ (8): My mum reads to me most. The book I am most into at the moment is called Stone Cold by Robert Swindells. I've read it lots of times. It's about this boy called Link whose dad dies and whose mum gets a new boyfriend and he has to move out. He runs away to London. One chapter is written by him, the next by a man who's killing all the homeless people and burying them under the floorboards. I read about half of it and my mum and dad read the other half.
My other best book by Robert Swindells is called Room 13. It's about a girl who's going on a school trip for a week and she finds this cupboard - but not like The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. In the daytime it's the cupboard and in the night-time it's Room 13. When you get to chapter 13 it's three blank pages. I got scared by that one.
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