Bedtime reading with Sally Phillips
Comedy actress and mum to three boys, Oliver, 9, Luke, 6, and Tom 2, Sally Phillips talks about bedtime reading and her collaboration on a pre-school picture book
1. Do you still read to all your children?
I do read to them all quite often. My ideal is to have them read to me downstairs, before they're too tired and then I read to them in bed. I used to manage it every night - we have a tower of favourite books for ages 3-5, but now there's three of them it's so chaotic. It seems there's always someone wildly waving a stick in the others' eyes dressed as Harry Potter and someone else chewing on blu-tack and mashing toothpaste into the carpets. It's hard to get the quiet required for a chapter of Horrid Henry. I love doing it when I can, though. Doesn't wind them down, much, though. They get me to do the voices and then they act it all out. I should probably start doing it before breakfast instead...
2. What do you think are the benefit of bedtime reading to your children?
I've always loved being cuddled up, a child under each arm, doing silly voices and making them laugh. It's one of the things I most love about being a parent. You build up a shared language of the imagination. Books give kids a way of expressing themselves emotionally. "I'm Monkey" if you can work out which book they're referring to might be them telling you they feel scared or hungry or want to see Grandpa or want to do more painting and so on. Chatting about books is a decent way of finding out who your child is.
3. Do you think bedtime reading is dying out?
No, I really don't, actually. Our library has a great kids section and is always full. It's surprising, I suppose, given that we have so many screens and easy-access audio book download possibilities on MP3s. It's just such a lovely thing to do - snuggle up with a dozy child and either take them on a journey or bore them to sleep. They're almost equally enjoyable. Bedtime reading would take a bit of a knock if all the libraries close.
4. Did your parents read to you as a child?
Yes. After a certain age my dad made up stories for us instead and we listened to story tapes once he'd gone.
5. Book or Kindle?
6. What's your advice for keeping little ones engaged in a bedtime story?
Make sure they can see the page, ask them to turn the page and get them to join in. If it's one of those repeating stories like Oh Dear or Monkey Puzzle just leave a pause... 'No eggs here ....' and they will join in with 'oh dear'. So, get them to be the different characters once they know the story and ask them a lot of questions about the pictures. If there's food in the pictures I sometimes ask them if they want to try it and I pretend to pull it off the page and they pretend to eat it. There's a great book called You Choose which is a fantastic model for this - the kids choose where they would live, what clothes they would wear, how they would get around, what they would put in their house - and you can have a great chat about everything.
7. What are your children's favourite stories?
Olly loves Anthony Browne books - Little Beauty, Willy and Hugh and Willy the Wizard, also anything with pirates, Lukey is well stuck into the Harry Potter series and loves anything about knights and castles, Tom has been very moved by the plight of the monkey who has lost his Mummy in Monkey Puzzle (working Mum guilt trip) and loves all the flaps in the Rod Campbell books as well as anything at all about trucks.
8. What's yours?
Oh there's so many. I can't read to the end of The Happy Prince without blubbing like a baby. Favourite from my own childhood were Mog, the Forgetful cat, The reluctant dragon, Ferdinand the Bull and The Diggingest Dog and with the kids I've loved reading Dogger, The Runaway Dinner, the Jelly that Wouldn't Wobble and collections of funny poems that we all yell at each other in the car ...'Everyone was a baby once, everyone was a baby once, your granny, please don't laugh, used to widdle in the bath'... and so on.
9. Tell us about the children's book you are currently working on?
Oh. Um. Yes, it's a pre-school picture book. Not got very far with it actually. I'm collaborating with a brilliant artist called Claerwen James but she's a mum too so we've got a bit bogged down in washing socks. You know how it is!!!
Sally was chatting to Sarah Sheere
Cuticura is working with Sally Phillips and the Prince's Foundation, Children and the Arts as part of their Crafty Confessions campaign on Cuticura's Facebook page.