`I'm not keen on Roald Dahl'

Story of the Year 3: Dinah Hall talks to a mother and daughter about what they read. Below, our short story competition

Sarah Standing, 34, is a freelance journalist. She and her husband, actor John Standing, have three children - India 9, Archie 8 and Tilly, 5 who all attend The Octagon School in West London.

India: Reading would probably come second on my list of favourite hobbies - art or rollerblading would be top. Mummy doesn't read me a bedtime story any more but I read in bed at night and sometimes in the morning when I wake up.

I like Pippi Longstocking books best - sometimes they are very funny, like when the police are after her because she is only nine and lives on her own and is disturbing the neighbours.

When I was younger I loved Milly Molly Mandy and Now We Are Six. I knew Alexander Beetle off by heart. The only Enid Blyton book I have ever read was Naughty Amelia Jane and I'm not very keen on Roald Dahl. I didn't like The Witches at all - not because it was frightening but because my teacher forced me in to reading it.

Sarah: I was a complete bookworm as a child, but in those days there weren't so many diversions. And I'm very conscious that as a parent you mustn't push your children into being the same as you - if you force them into reading you can end up putting them off for life.

India didn't learn to read until she was seven and a half because we lived in America and they didn't really have a formal education there - certainly not learning to read phonetically which Tilly could do at four and a half.

I used to read a lot to them at table: you've got a captive audience and it stops them asking for the ketchup. I haven't read so much to India since she got her own room about a year ago. I still read her bits and pieces, or perhaps a newspaper article, but it's so hard to get her on her own. It's difficult to find a book that will appeal across the age range of my three. We might read Swallows and Amazons in bed together but then Tilly will start wriggling.

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 1 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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