Best-selling children's author Morris Gleitzman loves the idea that children are still hiding under their bedcovers with a book and a torch, long after their parents have told them to turn off the lights.
Visiting Canberra on Monday, August 1, at the beginning of a six-week national tour, Gleitzman's face lit up when he heard a young boy say he was forever getting into trouble for reading late at night.
"It's been part of my education as an author to see, just through the 30 years I've been writing even, how many different alternative forms of information and entertainment technology are available to young people but they're still reading books," Gleitzman said.
"Books have got something that goes beyond what technology can offer and it's that connection between words and the individual imagination that is vital."
"When we watch stories unfold on a screen they can engage us on different levels, but if we want we can just sit back and let it wash over us and what we see is what we get.
"Reading can never be that passive. There's something magic that happens to turn ink on a piece of paper into images and feelings inside us."
Gleitzman visited Lyneham Primary School and Watson Primary School capturing the imagination of a few hundred Year 5 and 6 students with his tales of squashed toads, itchy nipples and bloody deaths.
Promoting the publication of his latest book Toad Delight, the fifth book in the toad series, Gleitzman still revels in school visits. He writes for the best part of eight months a year and spends the other four travelling here in Australia and overseas, meeting his young readers face to face.
"I've always felt very lucky to have a job that has two dramatically different sides to it," he says.
"I think I'd find it difficult to sit at my writing desk for 12 months."
Gleitzman's first book for young readers, Two Weeks with the Queen, was published in 1990.
"The biggest change hasn't been with the kids, it's been with me, I'm the one that's got old," says the 63-year-old.
Olivia Neilson, teacher/librarian at Lyneham Primary School, said the students gain plenty from author visits. They notice an increase in borrowing rates of specific books, they hear conversations around the school about the authors and the children become more motivated in their writing.
She said Lyneham has a strong literacy focus with students competing in writing competitions and just this year students decided to form their own Bookworm Club where readers can come to the library three lunchtimes a week to read quietly in their own time.
Toad Delight, by Morris Gleitzman. Penguin. $16.99.