Dermot O'Leary

What books did you read when you were a child?
When I was a kid I loved Roald Dahl. He was always a bit mischievous in his writing. Later, I really got into adventure books, especially the ones where you could choose for yourself what happened next.

If you could be a storybook character who would you be?
It would have to be Fantastic Mr Fox. What a clever fox outwitting farmers Boggis, Bunce and Bean!

What is the best thing about reading?
That you’re an active part of it; it’s your imagination that brings the text to life! The great thing about reading with kids - apart from the funny voices you can put on - is that you can see them painting these pictures in their mind as you read to them. And reading gives you knowledge of course which is a great thing and kids have a natural yearning for more knowledge.

What is your all-time favourite book?
I can’t pick just one! I love any kind of crime and historical fiction.

Other than reading books what is the most important thing a parent can do to help develop their children’s communication skills?
Talk to kids about important stuff! There was lots of literature and politics in our house as I was growing up.
And take them to the library. Every Saturday my dad took me to the library in Colchester – it was a brilliant library. I loved looking at the local papers on the old microfiche, and as I got older, it was just a great place to go and study.

How big a part did your parents play in encouraging your writing skills?
My Dad is a born storyteller and he’d tell us old Irish fairy stories that he was passing on. So even though he wasn’t necessarily writing them down, he was creating his own versions and modelling that behaviour to us. When I was little I used to make little books and try and sell them to the neighbours!

How do you think children can be encouraged to read and what would you recommend parents read to their children?
Be readers yourself and show them you love reading. Both my parents are big readers and there was always lots of books and talk about literature in our house when I was growing up.
I’d recommend parents read books they’ll enjoy too. Books with a level for the adult are great, like Roald Dahl who is mischievous and books where you can put on silly voices together are fun. Raymond Briggs is a legend and his books are great to read with a child. I like the way he never talked down to kids; Father Christmas is always a bit tired and a bit belligerent, he wasn’t a genial old man.

Dermot O’Leary's television and radio work has made him a household name. He started his career on T4 for Channel 4, and has presented shows for both ITV and the BBC. His best-known work includes ten series of The X Factor, Big Brother's Little Brother, the National Television Awards, BBC3’s First Time Voters Question Time, Unicef's Soccer Aid, the RTS Award winning Live from Space season following the International Space Station’s orbit of the Earth in 2014 and the Brit Awards which he presented with Emma Willis in 2016.

2017 saw Dermot launch his new Saturday morning show on BBC Radio 2, Saturday Breakfast with Dermot O’Leary. Previously in the Saturday afternoon slot, The Dermot O’Leary Show won three Sony Radio Awards and was well known for its support of new and emerging bands.

2018 saw Dermot host the National Television Awards for the ninth time and co-host, alongside Huw Edwards and Kirsty Young, the BBC’s coverage of the Royal Wedding of HRH Prince Harry and Meghan Markle which attracted 13 million viewers. In autumn 2018 Dermot will present the fourteenth series of The X Factor.

In September 2017, Dermot’s first children’s book Toto the Ninja Cat and the Great Snake Escape was published. Toto the Ninja Cat and the Incredible Cheese Heist is Dermot’s second children’s book, publishing September 2018. He lives in London with his wife Dee and their cats Socks and, of course, Toto.

Photographer: Ray Burniston. Illustration: Nick East.

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