Children’s author Rhian Ivory on escapism and her favourite children’s books

What does reading a book have to offer children that playing on an iPad can’t? And how do we encourage reading?? We talked to young adult (YA) fiction author Rhian Ivory, who shared her insight on what books can offer children over technology, how to encourage children to read and write stories, and her favourite young adult books.

Rhian Ivory is a Carnegie-nominated author of young adult (YA) fiction. In her ‘spare’

Rhian Ivory
YA author, Rhian Ivory
time, she is an insanely inspiring and knowledgeable tutor for The Open University’s Children’s Literature module (which is how The Mother Side’s Lauren came to cross paths with her last year while a student), and also works with young people to explore fiction and writing.

Rhian’s new book Hope will be published this month (15 September) and is already receiving glowing reviews. We took the opportunity to pick her brains about the importance of reading for children and how to encourage picking up a book rather than a mobile device (!).

We keep hearing that reading is becoming a lost art as children are increasingly drawn to television, mobile devices and gaming. Why do you think literature is important to children? What does it offer them that other mediums can’t?

Rhian: “Escapism, entrance to another world, place and time. They can find themselves in a character and experience either a new world or live out their own in a safe environment.

“Reading can be a very private experience. When you’re watching the television, other people can see what you’re watching, with mobiles and other tech devices it’s normally interacting with someone else, but reading is just you and the book and there’s something special about that experience. “

How do you think we can encourage children to read more?

Rhian: “By offering them diverse stories which speak to them and allow them to find themselves in literature. We also need to lead by example so that children see the adults in the home reading and are also read to. Audiobooks are a great substitute if you can’t read to your children. Mine listen to an audiobook every night, I get them from the local library.”

You run creative writing workshops for young people. What advice would you give to parents to encourage their children to get creative and start writing their own stories?

Rhian: “I’d advise them to read as much as possible first, from a variety of genres if possible. Most good writers are good readers.

“If there’s a particular genre they’re interested in reading it’s quite likely that they’ll want to write about this subject too. Fanfiction is a brilliant place to start and there’s examples of it all over the internet and Wattpad. Harry Potter fanfiction is hugely popular because readers want to explore other ways in which the characters from JK’s world can exist and engage. Booktrust provides a good beginner’s guide into writing fan fiction.”

What are your three favourite children’s/YA books, and why?

Rhian’s top three:

One by Sarah Crossan

One by Sarah Crossan
“Can you imagine pitching this book to an editor and then a sales team and them saying yes? Thank goodness Bloomsbury did because this book is the one that I like to give people just to see their faces when I tell them what it’s about and then sit back and watch them fall head first into Grace and Tippi’s world. The writing is to die for, the story of conjoined twins is unique and to top it all off it’s a verse novel. What’s not to like?”

Forever by Judy Blume
Forever by Judy Blume
“This was the book me and my friends passed around, folded down pages and talked and talked and talked about. Finally someone was talking about sex in a novel. It meant we didn’t have to borrow our mum’s Flowers in the Attic or Lace books anymore, here was a book about people our own age discovering sex for the first time. I’d read every single Judy Blume book I could get my hands on but this is the only one I still have.”

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
“Again, where do I start with this book? This book has dominated my life ever since I was old enough to read it. I’ve been reading it, teaching it, talking about it, arguing about it, watching it, listening to it on audio

Little Women by Louisa May Alcottand rereading it for as long as I can remember. I love arguing about Jo and Laurie, I’m fascinated by Amy March and reader’s relationships with her, I lose hours reading about Louisa May Alcott and the way in which the book came to be in the first place and more than anything I love the relationship between the four March girls. I see something new in this book every time I reread it and there’s not many books you can say that about.”

Thank you Rhian for sharing your insight with us. It’s been fascinating!

Rhian’s new book Hope is out on 15 September 2017 and available to pre-order here. Her previous book, The Boy who Drew the Future, was nominated for the Carnegie medal and is available to buy here. You can follow Rhian on Twitter and Facebook.

Rhian is a passionate feminist and so we also grabbed the opportunity to ask her thoughts on the potential for literature to empower readers (particularly girls). It’s a fascinating read and watch out for this part of the interview coming soon.

We’d love to hear from you….What books inspired you? And which have captured the attention and imagination of your children? We’d love to know and include them in a follow up post on books recommended by you, our readers. Let us know in the comments below.

The Mother Side xx

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