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Konnie Huq: Children learn empathy from reading which will ‘fix’ world problems

Konnie Huq says children learn empathy from reading which will ‘fix’ world problems (Yui Mok/PA)
Konnie Huq says children learn empathy from reading which will ‘fix’ world problems (Yui Mok/PA)

Former Blue Peter presenter Konnie Huq has said reading gives children empathy as they “can stand in the shoes of others”.

The author and illustrator, 46, said children are a “blank canvas” and if every child had empathy “the brighter the future is for the world”.

Huq is attending World Book Day celebrations at Camden Market on Sunday, reading extracts from children’s literature at the event.

She told the PA news agency: “If every child reads lots, the more empathy they have, the better, nicer, kinder adults they will be.

“And if every child has that, that would fix all the world’s problems, there would be no climate crisis, no poverty, no conflict, nothing.

“What we need in normal life is liberal amounts of empathy and people thinking happiness comes from helping each other and not helping yourself.

“Empathy is given through reading books because you can stand in the shoes of other people, you can know what it is like to be a refugee, be transported to whole new worlds and so it’s really important.”

The mother of two added that it was during her years presenting children’s TV programme Blue Peter on the BBC that she realised how impressionable children are.

New Blue Peter presenter
Blue Peter presenters Liz Barker and Konnie Huq (PA)

She said: “I remember interviewing a man who designed the Queen Mary II, I said to him how did you get to design it.

“He said he had seen the sinking of the Queen Mary I on TV as a child and something really struck him and he decided that he wanted to build the Queen Mary II.

“Over the years on the show we had so many guests where things had come to them as a child and then they have taken that with them for life.

“They often say kids know or have decided what they are going to be in those primary years, that is when you are becoming the adult you will be.”

Since leaving the show in 2008, Huq has published a book series titled Cookie and her most recent collection Fearless Fairy Tales.

British Academy Children’s Awards
Konnie Huq arriving at the British Academy Children’s Awards at The Roundhouse in London (Yui Mok/PA)

Revealing the inspiration behind the books, Huq said: “When I was growing up I felt there weren’t books that really represented any ethnic minority characters.

“There was an international section in the library but often it had two books in it about a girl who lived in the village and picked mangos for her mum.

“The Cookie books are all about a girl who is a bit of an outsider, chaos follows her around, a bit like Bridget Jones meets The Wimpy Kid.

“The Fearless Fairy Tales book came about because when I was reading fairy tales for my own children I realised how outdated some of the messages were, damsels in distress, knights in shining armour.”

Huq will be reading at the World Book Day celebrations at Camden Market on March 6.

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