Jackie Morris

What books did you read when you were a child?
To be honest, I was slow to learn to read so as a young child I mostly looked at the pictures and made up my own stories to go with them.  

If you could be a storybook character who would you be?
Sparrowhawk from A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula Le Guin. Then I could call dragons by name, be a dragon mage, and change my shape into that of a sparrowhawk.

What is the best thing about reading?
The way it takes you out of yourself to different lands, teaches you things, introduces you to new friends and ways of thinking, gives you a harbour in which to rest, speaks across centuries and continents.

What is your all-time favourite book?
Not a fair question. There’s a whole series of books by Robin Hobb called the Farseer books. There are 16 altogether. I would say those. But they begin with Assassin’s Apprentice so if I could only choose one it would be that one. And Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak. 

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, and reading is one of the best ways into this. And listen. Don’t be too busy and pretend to listen, but REALLY listen and engage. Turn off the TV, radio, music and listen. Reading time is a good time for this as books can be catalysts for conversation, but so can meal times. So, sit with your child and eat together, sharing food and stories.

How big a part did your parents play in encouraging your writing skills?
My parents encouraged me very much in my education. They had both left school very young. But there was no expectation that I should go on to further education, as there wasn’t the culture of education in our extended family. Writing came much later to me, when I could no longer keep silent.

How do you encourage your children or grandchildren to read, what books do you enjoy reading with them?
When my children were just a bump I read to them. Even from tiny babies I read to them. When I fed them as babies I would read. Later they read to me. They have always seen me with books, and I take a book everywhere in case there is time to read. They have always had so many books to choose from and both, still, are great readers aged 22 and 24. And both write beautifully.

Jackie Morris is a storyteller, watercolourist and photographer with a particular reputation for glorious wildlife observation and retellings of folk and fairytales. Jackie lives in Wales surrounded by wildlife – including the domestic variety – and documents her life and work on a popular blog. Her latest book, The White Fox, is out now from Barrington Stoke.

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