As a child I was a voracious reader. I sailed with the Swallows and Amazons, fell through the wardrobe with Lucy, giggled through midnight feasts with Darrell and Sally and explored the American prairies with Laura. I journeyed through the present and the past, in reality and fantasy. Stories could take me anywhere and show me things I could never have experienced. 

Although my own children have faced their struggles with reading, we have always had books in the home. I have read many of my childhood favourites to them as part of our home education journey, and we have discovered newer classics together. When the global pandemic suddenly made all of our real worlds so much smaller, the escape into the variety of places and people available through books became even more important to us all. 

Through stories, we have been able to virtually meet characters from all over the world and across history. We have been amused, entertained, surprised and sometimes even shocked. My children have seen their own feelings – love, fear, anger, delight, grief, frustration, loss, joy – unfold in the lives of characters they have grown to care about. We have been able to empathise with the challenges they face and even learn from them about how we can navigate the complexities of our own stories.  

These stories and, by extension, the authors who created them, are now part of our collective memory, our family story. We have immersed ourselves in worlds that were conceived in the minds of writers we have never met or seen but, as my children have grown older, they have begun to notice the craft of the author at work – the pace of the plot, the choice of words, the creation of characters, the twists in the tail. 

And they have become authors themselves. They may not be writing books, but they tell their stories in role play, through complex Minecraft worlds, and crafted in drawings, paintings, junk sculptures and stickers.  

All of this is why I am delighted to have been asked to be an ambassador for the Reading is Magic Festival. Running from 2nd to 6th October, this free online event will bring authors, illustrators and poets into the classrooms and homes of children all around the world.  

This year marks the 20th anniversary of Cressida Cowell’s How to Train Your Dragon series – a set of books that takes pride of place on my children’s bookshelf. In celebration of this milestone, Cressida will be challenged to answer 20 questions about her books in 20 minutes, teach us all how to draw Hiccup, and read a brand new short story. I do hope you will be able to join me and my family as we meet the creator of so many well-loved stories.  

The Reading is Magic Festival is a week of online events with authors and illustrators running from 2 – 6 October. Access is free and the events plus much more can be watched on demand.