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A Love of Reading

I have loved to read stories aloud most of my life.

I would volunteer to read stories in the reading corner when I did work experience in schools. I would love to read stories to the children I cared for as a Nanny; reading times were frequently part of our schedules: pre-nap, post-nap, and always before bed. Even though most of the families I worked for had lovely collections of books, library trips were a regular occurrence, with plenty of time to choose, and, if we went shopping, book shops were visited, too.

I didn't want to get bored of reading the same stories over and over, so I would read them with energy and enthusiasm; it was also important to me that the children enjoyed listening to them, whether it was the first or the hundredth time, and, if they heard boredom in my voice, that would have taken some of their enjoyment away. We would often make the stories interactive; sometimes, that was easy, such as with "We're going on a bear hunt" by Michel Rosen, loving the onomatopoeia, we would sway for the "swish-swash" of the grass, do sticky walking for the "squelch squelch"; other books, the actions weren't so obvious so we would try to read books, such as Dr. Seuss's "Fox in Socks" very, very fast, or create actions for particular words. Some of the books were so loved, that we would often recite them on car and bus journeys.

I wanted to encourage a love of reading in every child I looked after because I knew how important it was to have that passion, that imagination, that escapism.

I don't remember many books being around when I was a child; I have a recollection of there being Roger Hargreaves "Mr. Men" books, but little beyond that. But I do remember the joy of going to the library and picking books to borrow; I would sometimes get big books out, such as "The Sound of Music", and Louisa M. Alcott's "Little Women", which also had "Little Men" (her story; not a collection of Roger Hargreaves’ characters) at the back, upside down, because I wanted the pleasure to last longer. When I started getting pocket money, and was allowed to shop without adults, I would spend my £2 on a 99p Sweet Dreams/Sweet Valley High book or two (sometimes I would get seduced by a Constance Carroll nail varnish, or piece of make-up, so that would mean only one book).

With my Community Interest Company, I use my passions for inclusion and acceptance as an excuse to buy more children’s books; I love being able to share these wondrous books at events and at book readings. One day, I will get around to writing a list of brilliantly inclusive books so people can buy them for their shelves, too.

An image of Vie's 3 books. A square on the top right is of Where Are We Going and features Emily, her Mum and cat in a sailing boat with waves. the second image, bottom left is of Vie's second book Who Am I? featuring Emily sat in a tree, reading with two orangutans. The third image is of La Vie Est Belle, which has a turquoise background, a white lotus flower and the title in purple.

I recently did a book reading at the wonderful October Books with my book, Who Am I?. Donna, the fabulous illustrator (Art & Murals by Donna Mcghie), and I had a wonderful time, but there was not one child there; instead, we shared the book and activities with a fantastic group of adults with learning disabilities. We all had a lot of fun! We even had an impromptu singalong, changing the words of a well-known song to fit the book.

I don’t know about other authors but, for me, things that have made my books feel real, are when I first see them in the “flesh”, with my name on the front cover, and when I have people in front of me, listening to me read from it. It is a pinch myself moment; these humans are here to see me, me, the author; then, watching them respond is delightful!

It was from one book reading that a little girl talked to me about sea unicorns; from that, I talked to Donna and she agreed it was a fabulous idea, so, in one of the illustrations in Who Am I?, you will see a little sea unicorn bobbing along; it’s always worth suggesting to authors what you would like to see, especially for picture books, because you might see your suggestion in print, too.

But I haven’t done a reading with La Vie Est Belle yet; the first one is next week, on International Women’s Day, and, I will admit, I am nervous. When my children’s books started leaving me to go to their new homes, I felt like I was sending a child I loved very much out into the world, without a coat, and without preparing them for the occasional sadness and cruelties there can be; with La Vie, it feels like a little piece of me is going with each book.

With the Emily books, people could say they didn’t like the story and, although that would be sad, we don’t all like the same stories, so it would be understandable; with La Vie, it’s my life, it’s me, so it feels more personal. And, reading it to people, seeing their reactions, well, that feels a little vulnerable.

But I am looking forward to it.

And the lovely Bay Leaves Larder are doing food and they do good food!

A poster titled "An evening with Vie" at the Bay Leaves Larder in Chandlers Ford, 87-91 Hiltingbury Road, Chandlers Ford, SO53 5NQ on Tuesday 8th March at 7pm. The poster features an image of "La Vie est Belle" book cover and a variety of star, rainbow and splodges in purple. lilac and shades of blue colours.

Tuesday 8th March 2022 at 7pm

Bay Leaves Larder, Chandler’s Ford,. An Evening with Vie!

I will be doing a book reading from La Vie Est Belle, having a Q & A, and there will possibly be some extra fun.

You can book your ticket HERE! The ticket price includes food so please do let me or Bay Leaves know if you have any dietary requirements.

It would be wonderful to see you at one or more of the readings.

Here are the public ones that are booked in the coming weeks.

Pink coloured poster featuring three authors reading their books at Bitterne Library, Southampton on March 5th.

Saturday 5th March 2022

Bitterne Library, Southampton at 2.15pm.

There’s another couple of local children’s authors, too.

You can book by going into Bitterne Library before Saturday, or by emailing catherine.miller

A photo of Vie outside October Books shop in Portswood, Southampton dressed in a flowery dress holding a copy of her book.

Tuesday 22nd March 2022

October Books 189, Portswood Road, Southampton, 6.30pm - 8pm Author talk: La Vie Est Belle

by Vie Portland A book reading of La Vie Est Belle

and a Q & A. This event is free but you do need to reserve your space; you can book HERE

And there are a couple of private readings, too. I’m doing a whole day in a school next week, too!

It’s all very fancy! I’m an author, you know!

It would be wonderful to see you there, as friendly faces really do make a huge difference.

If you would like to talk to me about doing a book reading somewhere, please do get in touch.

And I would love to hear about your favourite children’s books!

I would love to read them.




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