I’ve always loved to read, I started early and never stopped. I’m one of those people who will lie in the bath and read every bit of the label on the shampoo bottle, even the bits in languages I don’t understand.
I love the classics, Shakespeare, Chaucer and even found the odd Dickens bearable even if they are a bit too vocabulary dense for me. I’m a HUGE fan of Thomas Hardy, can read anything by him and be moved to tears, incited to outrage or transported instantly to a leafy, cold, rainy west country lane via his particularly profound ability to describe things like a conjurer magically creating images inside your head.
I also like trashy novels, they have a place. I’ve read many a Danielle Steel, Jilly Cooper and even a couple of Jackie Collins’ novels laid on hot beaches or bobbing on a boat somewhere splendid in my time.
I love to read biographical or autobiographical accounts of triumphing over adversity and enjoy a good rags to riches story, one of my most favourite ever I read in one day while lying on the side of a mountain on a hot Greek island, the story of Cupcake Brown A Piece of Cake which moved me to tears at more than one juncture. I loved such as Nelson Mandela’s Long Walk to Freedom, In Pursuit of Happyness charting Chris Gardner’s rise to fortune and Frank McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes and the follow up ‘Tis charting a less then brilliant childhood and thereafter.
I adore Alice Walker’s The Colour Purple and perhaps learned more about myself from that book than any other. It was perhaps the book which broke me from my Stephen King obsession, which ended with Needful Things, read whilst breast feeding my youngest on those long dark nights and it somehow launched me into a world of Faye Weldon starting with The Lives and Loves of a She Devil.
I’ve encouraged my kids to read, taught them both by the time they were 3 and still read to them, even though the eldest is almost 21. She still loves to snuggle up and be read to, it’s a habit of a lifetime. I garnered my love of reading perhaps from my own father who was never seen without a book in his hand and I emulate his ability to read several books at a time, switching from genre to genre as the mood suits. I remember when he was dying and was unable to read, sitting beside his bed on those last couple of days reading anything and everything to him and how it soothed him.
Through my children I was introduced to a whole new world of children’s literature that I might otherwise have missed, my days of running to the book shop, pocket money held aloft to buy the latest Enid Blyton were well and truly over and children’s literature had moved on considerably and I loved it. From tales of Alfie getting in first, Spot, the adventures of the Tots from Tots TV, Miffy the strange looking rabbit, reliving the delights of Oscar Wilde’s Happy Prince and the tales of Hans Christian Anderson, moving on to Jacqueline Wilson’s contemporary social commentary on growing up from Dustbin Baby to the Illustrated Mum and then on to the Star Wars books, biographies of football and sporting greats, the Noughts and Crosses saga and not to mention Twilight and Harry Potter.
There’s value in reading, it opens up worlds, it opens up minds, it breaks down barriers, it soothes, calms and unifies. Books are not just bound together pieces of paper they are roads to somewhere and as a teacher if I can do one thing it will be to try to encourage the people I teach to embrace reading as one of the most powerful tools to take them where they want to go in life. It’s such a shame that it’s a bit of a dying art, I don’t know one parent of a small child who actually sees reading to their babies as a fun activity, a special time to dive into a new world together. Besides anything else reading really does help them to learn everything else, I firmly believe that, besides the obvious reasons, it teaches them to absorb, comprehend, reconstitute, consider and comment sharing their own opinion and that’s a good skill to have for life.