From a reluctant reader

1st October 2004 at 01:00
It may be a dangerous confession from the chief inspector of schools but I was not terribly interested in reading when I was at school. Yet, by the time I was teaching in the Eighties, I had fully entered the world of children's books and developed a passion for them that I still have today.

I have two particular favourites from that time. Follow That Bus! by Pat Hutchins brings back happy memories of my early career teaching younger children. But the book was also enormous fun, set as it was against the backdrop of class 6 from New End school being caught up in a robbery on a farm.

My other favourite from that time was, What Difference does it Make, Danny? by Helen Young. It is the story of Danny Blane, an enthusiastic and sporty lad who has epilepsy. He has to overcome the prejudice of his PE teacher who wants to keep him out of the school swimming and gym teams.

In no way "preachy", this book was well ahead of its time in dealing with tricky and sensitive issues.

That was then. As for now, our house sometimes feels a bit like a reading factory as books are read at alarming speed.

My younger daughter, Shona, 12, is a fan of the Lemony Snicket books, A Series of Unfortunate Events. I must confess that I enjoy these too, although Shona's favourite in the series is Book the Ninth, The Carnivorous Carnival while mine is Book the Fifth, The Austere Academy. Shona also likes Louise Rennison's books, Angus, Thongs and Full-frontal Snogging (great title!) and It's OK, I'm Wearing Really Big Knickers.

My other daughter Laura, 15, is always willing to try new genres. Nailing down her absolute favourites is hard but she identified Garth Nix's trilogy, Sabriel, Lirael and Abhorsen. She loves Meg Cabot's The Princess Diaries and is eagerly awaiting the sixth book in the series, due out this month.

Finally, two of my more recent favourites. Abomination by Robert Swindells is a seriously underrated but incredibly powerful book about a family with a hidden secret in their basement.

My other favourite is Michael Morpurgo's sad but gentle book on the 2001 foot and mouth epidemic, Out of the Ashes.

Maybe, just maybe, if such high-quality children's writing had been around when I was younger, I might not have been a reluctant reader for so long.

David Bell is chief inspector of schools

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