TODAY is World Book Day and its heart is reading for pleasure - and how that can change lives.

A UNESCO global celebration of books and reading, World Book Day highlights the impact of books and reading on the wellbeing of children and young people. Nearly 60per cent of youngsters said reading made them feel better in lockdown.

Says the WBD team: “Reading for pleasure is the single biggest indicator of a child’s future success. We want to see more children, particularly from disadvantaged backgrounds, with a lifelong habit of reading and the improved life chances this brings.”

We asked these local authors what books they loved as children, what inspired them to write and what they’re reading today.

* SHEENA HUSSAIN is a Bradford poet whose new book Covid-19 Poems from a Pandemic features poems by children entered a competition she set up in the first lockdown: “Accessing books in childhood was difficult, I was from a big family and there was never enough money to buy new books. Some early books I remember reading were Funny Bones by Janet and Allan Ahlberg and Enid Blyton’s Famous Five.

It was my cancer diagnosis that actually led me to take up creative writing as a form of healing. I published Memories Of a Poet, My Road, My Recovery. Now I read a lot of poetry and non-fiction. At present I’m reading Science and Colonial Expansion by Lucile H Brockway, a fascinating book if you want to learn more about the British Empire.”

* LINDA GREEN is the Bingley-based author of 10 novels which have sold more than 1.4million copies. Her latest novel, One Moment, was a Radio 2 Book Club pick: “My parents didn’t own a novel between them but they did take me to the local library, which inspired my love of books. I remember reading The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe by CS Lewis and being completely transported to the world of Narnia. I was also horse-mad, so read pretty much every pony-based novel on the shelves.

“These days my favourite authors are Margaret Atwood, John Boyne and Rachel Joyce. I’ve recently loved The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne, which is funny and moving with utterly memorable characters, Three Hours by Rosamund Lupton, a powerful, humane thriller focusing on a terrorist attack on a school and Anxious People by Fredrik Backman, a witty, warm and wise tale about an unlikely bank robbery which goes wrong.”

* MICHAEL STEWART has published several novels including Ill Will: The Untold Story of Heathcliff: “There weren’t many books around the house when I was a kid. But my sister did have a collection of Enid Blyton books. I started at one end and worked my way through. I lived close to a library and every Saturday morning I’d go and get my fix. I did the same as I did with my sister’s shelf: started at one end and worked my way along.

When I was 10 I had glandular fever and was bedbound for over two months. I was given a book of children’s poems. In it was a poem called Alone by Edgar Allan Poe. It was like a bolt of lightning. I memorised it and tried to write something similar. When I got back on my feet I went to a bookshop and bought a book of EAP’s writing. I’d found my first literary love.

I read all the time and widely, both fiction and non-fiction, poetry and prose. Books I’ve read recently that I’ve enjoyed include Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart,

Who Owns England? By Guy Shrubsole, When I Think of My Body as a Horse by Wendy Pratt and Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata."

* WENDY HOLDEN is a Cleckheaton-born best-selling novelist. Her latest novel, The Governess, is out in paperback (Welbeck) in June: "My favourite book as a child probably sounds quite strange. It was a huge, gold souvenir volume of the Coronation of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth in 1937. It belonged to my grandma, who lived in a back-to-back house in Elland. I would often look at it when I visited her and the sight of all those crowns and furs and carriages set my imagination going. I could tell even as a child that the Windsors were all great characters, and very different from each other. Possibly from that moment on I decided to write a novel about them some day.

But four decades were to pass before I did, and in the meantime I read a lot of historical fiction. Recently, I have enjoyed the wonderful Thomas Cromwell trilogy by Hilary Mantel; Wolf Hall, Bring Up The Bodies and The Mirror and the Light. Then, a couple of years ago, I wrote the first of my own fictional trilogy about The Windsors. It’s called The Governess, and is the little-known story of the Queen’s childhood. The next book in the series is about Wallis Simpson, and is called The Duchess. The final part of the trilogy will be The Princess, about Diana." 

YOUSRA IMRAN'S debut novel Hijab and Red Lipstick (Hashtag Press) was published in 2020: "As a child my favourite author was Jacqueline Wilson. She was one of the first to write about social issues through the eyes of young people. I loved The Illustrated Mum and her Girls in Love series. She answered my fan letters personally and was very encouraging about my writing ambitions.

I read a range of books, the majority by black, South Asian, East Asian and Middle Eastern female authors. My favourite book last year was The Family Tree by Bradford author Sairish Hussain.

PAUL HENDERSON has written five books. His latest novel is Daisy (No Exit Press). "As a child I loved Enid Blyton’s Famous Five books. I liked the adventures and settings. I read a lot and from the age of about 11 I'd go to the library.

After university I discovered the book Trout Fishing in America by Richard Brautigan. I found it so refreshing and different to anything I had read before. It got me back into reading and made me think that maybe I could write a book.

Other authors that have made a lasting impression are Michael Malone, in particular his novel Handling Sin, and Hanuki  Murakami’s The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle."