What books did you read when you were a child?
When I was learning to read, my favourite books were the Blackberry Farm series by Jane Pilgrim. Sports Day at Blackberry Farm was the first book I ever read all by myself! When I got a bit older I was mad about Narnia and the adventure series’ by Enid Blyton. When I got a bit older still, there were two books about a brother and sister who went rock climbing in North Wales. I love them, but I’ve no idea who wrote them and never heard of them since.
If you could be a storybook character who would you be?
I always thought I was going to be Prince Caspian when I grew up! I think it could also be quite fun being Tintin, going off on all those wild adventures with Captain Haddock!
What is the best thing about reading?
The best thing about reading is the pictures - not the pictures in the book but the pictures in your head. Everyone reads the same book quite differently and imagines the characters and the scenery in completely different ways. The next best thing about reading is being tucked up warm in bed, snuggled down, reading something really exciting that you just can’t put down.
What is your all-time favourite book?
My all-time favourite book is Where The Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak. That’s the book that inspired me to become a children’s book illustrator first, and then an author second.
Other than reading books what is the most important thing a parent can do to help develop their children’s communication skills?
Put the phone down, turn the TV off, do something together that involves conversation. Just talk, talk, talk; sing, sing, sing; play word games, I Spy, anything to keep using words in context. The more words you hear, the more words you speak, and the more fluent you will become at both reading, writing and talking. And drawing – writing is just a complicated way of drawing. Many children are visual learners and their reading and writing will respond to a lot of drawing. Drawing is like doing a first draft of a story.
How big a part did your parents play in encouraging your writing skills?
Very little! I went to boarding school from the age of five so I was hardly ever home. I always used to draw though, and my dad always had a supply of green army paper for me with the Queen’s crest printed on the top. Drawing is completely neglected these days, yet it is a hugely important development phase of learning writing and storytelling skills. Reading pictures is as important as reading words these days.
How do you encourage your children/nieces/nephews/grandchildren to read, what books do you enjoy reading with them?
Sadly, I have no children around to share books with at the moment. When my own children were young, I read to them every night from the day they were born until the day they said, “Dad!...”
Shoo Rayner has written and illustrated over 200 books and illustrated over 70 for other authors. Recent titles include the Dragon Trilogy from Firefly Press and new books in the Mudpuddle Farm Series with Michael Morpurgo.
Shoo lives in the magical Forest of Dean with his wife and cats where he runs his award-winning how-to-draw YouTube channel, ShooRaynerDrawing.
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