Dan Metcalf

What books did you read when you were a child?
All the Roald Dahl books! I had a great Head Teacher who would read them to us in assembly, doing all the voices and making us squirm with disgust at the gruesome bits! I also got into the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy book by Douglas Adams pretty early on.

If you could be a storybook character who would you be?
I think I'd be the Psammead from Five Children and It. It'd suit me very well, just sitting about for hundreds of years and then acting grumpy when woken up. Oh, and I could grant wishes. That would be cool!

What is the best thing about reading?
Reading is like a kind of meditation – it can clear your mind of all the things in life and transport you away to a different world or life. It's like taking a holiday in your mind, but you don't have to worry about passports and insect repellent.

What is your all-time favourite book? 
Paddington! There's something so charming and relaxing about that bear. I love the British-ness of the books and the cleverness. If I could only have one book for the rest of my life, it would be Paddington (or a great big omnibus of all the books!).

Other than reading books what is the most important thing a parent can do to help develop their children’s communication skills?
Talk to them! Engage them in conversation and get them talking to other people as well. Teach them that a chat is not something to fear and that it is the cornerstone of society. Just talking with them, asking questions and getting them to put words to what is in their minds is something parents don't always do. Ask them about their day, what they played, their ideas on anything and everything. Even when they go on flights of fancy, they are learning to use the correct words to communicate.

How big a part did your parents play in encouraging your writing skills?
A huge part. I was always encouraged to write by my parents and teachers, who were impressed by the long stories that I would trot out and the imagination that went into them. My dad is an excellent storyteller and would often (and still does) make up fantastic stories on the spot.

How do you encourage your children or grandchildren to read, what books do you enjoy reading with them?
I've been reading to my children since they were in the womb! I don't think they've known anything different. My eldest has just started to read so we practise school books with him at home, topped off with a book that we read to him as a treat. I also try to give my children ownership – get them to choose their own books from the library even if it does mean you reading them the same book for the tenth time! I love reading old favourites like Allan Ahlberg books and new ones too, like Viviane Schwarz or Alex English.

Dan Metcalf is a writer and author of children's books such as The Lottie Lipton Adventures. He lives in Devon with his wife and two sons. He enjoys books, films, comics and making up stories. He has so far absolutely refused to grow up.

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