I love books: the smell; the texture of the paper; the soft rustle as the page turns; the plethora of information/new worlds/fictional friends hidden between the pages. I do have a Kindle, but I tend to use it more as a tablet than for reading. I can see that electronic books have their place in the reading world, but I much prefer the experience of reading a physical book. Of course there can be implications for the planet, but that’s a debate for another post.
My Dad always tells the story of when I was two, sitting on my potty with a book – I really have been reading even before I can remember. I was desperate to learn, and when I finally did understand that all those symbols joined together to make words, I felt like I’d unlocked a treasure trove of possibilities. My first time in a library was much like Matilda’s: open-mouthed wonder at the fact that I could read all of those books, that I could even take them home to read!
I was lucky, in that our local library was four doors down from our house. When I was a child I spent every afternoon after school choosing three or four books. I would then take them home and read them all that night. When I would return them the next afternoon, checking out some more, I don’t think the librarian believed that I’d actually read them!
My favourites included the My Best Fiend series, by Sheila Lavelle; The Babysitters Club series, by Ann M. Martin; the Sweet Valley Twins series by Francine Pascal, and anything by Judy Blume. These were the books my friends read too, and we talked about them in the playground and swapped them under our school desks during class time. My Nanny, Grandad, Great Auntie Marg, and Auntie Lucy used to send me books for my birthday and Christmas. These books were always classics, such as the Discworld series and The Chronicles of Narnia. I’m sad to say that at the time, these books didn’t really appeal to me. I did read The Little House on the Praire series, as well as my childhood favourites – the Anne of Green Gables books. Only now am I revisiting those books that I’d initially cast aside, taking in every word, and seeing them through the eyes of my nine-year-old son, who devours any book he can get his hands on! It’s so lovely to share the beautiful Chronicles of Narnia set that I was given for my ninth birthday with him – a true family heirloom-in-the-making!
When I went to university, I studied Scottish Literature. A lot of classic texts were included in the syllabus, as well as a few modern ones. My absolute favourite book was discovered when I was in my first year – Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh. The story is quite gritty, but I love that it is written in the Scottish vernacular. When I first opened the book, the words swam before my eyes, but after the first page the words flowed and thrust me right in the middle of the various thoughts and escapades of a drug addict.
My love of literature was the reason I decided to train as an English teacher. There are so many lessons you can relay to teenagers, using books as the building blocks. One of my favourite things to teach is how to interpret different texts; a skill which is especially important today, given the amount of misinformation and fake news that circles the internet! It’s also fascinating to share texts that were written centuries ago, but contain messages that are still so relevant today.
I have a to-read list that is constantly expanding. The books on it differ in genre, as (similar to every other aspect of my life) I have eclectic taste. There are children’s books: The Adventures of Tom Sawyer; Swallows and Amazons; the How to Train Your Dragon series, classics: Dracula; The Age of Innocence; Bleak House, and non-fiction: The Little Book of Hygge; The Second Sex; The Selfish Gene. These examples are a miniscule snapshot of my list – I don’t expect to ever get to the point where every single one is ticked off! That’s the way it should be too. How awful would it be if there were no more books left to read; no more new characters to meet; no more unique thoughts shared from inspirational people?
It is said frequently – reading has so many benefits. It gives us knowledge, teaches us lessons, and lets us escape from reality for a short while. I use it as one of the many ways to spend time with my children. My biggest ray, as I mentioned earlier, ploughs through books of all genres. He can retain facts in a way that amazes me, and soaks up information like a sponge. My biggest-middle isn’t as avid a reader (which I believe is down to her lack of confidence), but loves having stories read to her. We’re currently on book two of the Harry Potter series, and she delves into that magical world with enthusiasm every night. My littlest-middle is in the midst of learning to read, and has taken to it beautifully. She is now enjoying reading all her favourite books to her baby sister. My littlest ray is just starting to understand the concept of story time. We have read to each of the children from around the age of four months, starting with the Usborne That’s Not My… touchy-feely books.
It’s never too early (or too late) to kindle a person’s love of reading. Even ten minutes a day can be beneficial. So turn off the electronics, grab a snuggly blanket and a drink, and settle down for some thrills/adventure/romance/whatever takes your fancy! I’m off to dive back into The Big Book of Practical Spells.
Which book are you currently reading?