Cathy Martin, mum and ambassador for Book Trust in Northern Ireland, on why reading to children from a young age is so important.
When did you begin sharing stories with Valentina?
I started sharing stories with Valentina from when she was born - she spent her first five weeks in an incubator and during that time we told her stories. We still tell her stories during feeding time and cuddling.
As Valentina got a little older, sharing a storybook became part of the bedtime routine. We began with very simple stories, such as Peepo Baby and That's Not My Monster.
What are Valentina's favourite books?
Valentina has already amassed quite a big collection of books, ranging from board books to ones we're keeping until she's a bit older. They're beginning to take over our house!
Her favourite book is The Very Hungry Caterpillar, which was also my favourite book as a young child. She also loves tactile books, like Calm Down Boris, by Sam Lloyd and Jazzy In the Jungle, by Lucy Cousins, which are very colourful and the different shaped pages are great for developing motor skills.
Who else reads stories to Valentina?
Her daddy and her three older siblings - Johnny, Elisa and Sasha. Everyone in the family loves to share books with Valentina. We enjoy the stories as much as she does, and it also provides us with special bonding time together.
Why do you think reading is important?
Communication and language is an important part of my day to day work [Cathy runs a PR firm in Belfast], so I know how crucial it is to foster it from a young age. I love books and reading, although I don't have as much time as I would like for it myself these days!
Do you have any special memories of reading when you were younger?
As a child, I visited my local library every Saturday to borrow books, and attended Story Sessions at the Lisburn Road library. I really looked forward to these and enjoyed going every week. As the sixth of seven children, a lot of the books I read were handed down, which meant the books were well loved and the stories were already very familiar to me.
I can even remember the first book I bought with my own pocket money, The Midnight Kittens, by Dodie Smith, from the Bookworm Club at school. I've kept a lot of my favourite books from when I was a child, such as George's Marvellous Medicine, Noddy, Winnie the Pooh and The Wombles. Being able to look through them again, as an adult, brings back lots of happy memories and I look forward to being able to share them with Valentina when she's a little older.