Evgeny Lebedev

David Walliams backs Get London Reading: find a book you love, star urges children

Evening Standard Thursday 29 January 2015

David Walliams says he treasures the memory of reading bedtime stories with his father and keeps the tradition going with his own son.

David Walliams says he treasures the memory of reading bedtime stories with his father and keeps the tradition going with his own son.

The comedian and children’s author, 43, spoke about his love of reading on a visit to a London school in support of the Standard’s literacy campaign.

He captivated 100 pupils at Ashburnham primary in Chelsea as he read from his story Gansgsta Granny.

He said: “One of my fantastic memories of my dad, who is no longer with us, was lying on his chest and reading Green Eggs And Ham. I loved Dr Seuss books. He used to read them, I remember it distinctly.” He now reads to his own son, 20-month-old Alfred.

Backing Get London Reading, he said it was vital to remind people of the joy of books: “It shouldn’t be a chore. There’s a lot of people who’ve never read a book as they think they are for someone else, or are boring and intellectual. But they are so important.”

Walliams’s first children’s story, The Boy In The Dress, was published in 2008. He has written seven, which have been translated into 42 languages and sold more than six million UK copies.

He said: “Children’s books had always been a guilty pleasure. I loved collecting old editions of Alice In Wonderland or Charlie And The Chocolate Factory. Somewhere in the back of my mind was an ambition to write one, but I didn’t think it’d be more than a nice hobby.”

At Ashburnham school he urged pupils to find a book they love to spark their interest: for him it was Charlie And The Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl.

He urged budding young authors to write as many stories as possible and read widely. Children received a signed copy of Walliams’s latest book Awful Auntie. Niba Ahmed, 10, said: “I was really excited to meet him. I bought one of his books yesterday.” Alla Abukassem, nine, added: “I love his books. My favourite is Mr Stink.”

Ashburnham benefits from three volunteers from charity Beanstalk, a partner of the campaign, who read with children who are struggling to keep up. Mentors have helped more than 2,300 children at over 300 schools since Get London Reading was launched.

Standard owner Evgeny Lebedev said he also had fond memories of hearing Rudyard Kipling and Jack London read to him as a child by his grandfather, a zoologist. He said: “I am very proud the campaign has been running for more than three years and has helped so many kids fall in love with reading.”

Beanstalk is seeking more volunteers on 020 7729 4087. Visit  www.beanstalkcharity.org.uk