Reading at an early age is important in helping children understand “different places, different cultures, different ways of life”, Queen Consort Camilla has said.
She sat down with Children’s Laureate Joseph Coelho to discuss their shared love of books and reveal their favourite childhood tales to mark World Book Day.
During their conversation, the queen consort also reflected on how reading to her grandchildren has been a “wonderful” bonding experience which has helped them to become bookworms.
A video of the conversation, which was recorded last month in the Clarence House Library, was released by BookTrust to mark the annual event in which children are encouraged to read for pleasure.
As to reading with her grandchildren, Queen Consort Camilla said: “It was just a wonderful way of getting to know them, as you say, bonding. Sitting on the end of their bed and just reading.
“We took it in turn to find our favourite stories and what’s lovely is it’s really got them reading. They are bookworms now.
“It’s so lovely if I go and see them, I find them tucked up in bed with a book saying: ‘Please don’t turn off the light, I’ve got to finish this chapter.'”
The queen consort added: “It is really nice when you see the pure enjoyment that children are getting out of reading and if you get that at a very early age, it’s going to help you so much in future life.
“Because the earlier you read, the more you are going to understand, the more books you read, the more you’re going to understand about different places, different cultures, different ways of life.”
She also recalled the emotional impact that some books had on her as a child, including Black Beauty by Anna Sewell and Grimms’ Fairy Tales.
Reflecting on her favourite childhood books, she said: “I think I have to admit, in the end, I ended up probably being a sort of pony-mad child with Black Beauty, which I howled over, night after night after night.”
The queen consort went on to recount to Mr Coelho how adventure stories inspired her and her siblings to camp, saying: “It takes you into a sort of multitude of different worlds.”
On Grimms’ Fairy Tales, she added: “I remember going to bed at night and having quite bad dreams about them.
“I think as children half of you wants to be scared — you don’t want to be scared too much, but it’s that sort of frisson of just being a little bit frightened.”
Mr Coelho replied: “Books are a safe space, where you can be a little bit scared, and it’s OK. You can close the covers, get under your duvet!”
Being a literature lover, the queen consort set up her own Reading Room online book club and is a passionate advocate of encouraging children to read.
She holds a number of patronages related to literature, including the Book Trust and the National Literacy Trust, and has presented the Booker Prize in past years.
Mr Coelho, whose tenure as children’s laureate runs from 2022-2024, succeeded Dame Cressida Cowell in the post last year.
“Sharing stories is a fantastic way to spend time as a family and the benefits of reading together are huge,” said Diana Gerald, chief executive of BookTrust.
“Children of all ages and backgrounds can benefit from the positive impacts of reading, as it sparks inspiration, enhances creativity, empathy and supports good mental health.
“Introducing children to classic stories while also discovering new tales and adventures is a brilliant way of creating a reading habit that can carry a child through life.
“As a long-time supporter of BookTrust and a true advocate for children’s reading, Her Majesty’s experiences of shared reading both as a child herself and with her grandchildren really brings home the point that every family can benefit from reading together.”