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Learning To Love Books

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I was lucky at school, because the novels I studied for both state exams became life-long friends.  I was nervous of the classics to begin with, but I quickly identified with Dickens’s Pip from Great Expectations and fell in love with the Yorkshire moors of Wuthering Heights.  I learned to appreciate these two literary greats, but did it encourage me to read after the school bell rang?  Eh, unfortunately, no.

Some people seem to be born bookworms, but I’m not sure if that’s really the case.  Reading, or rather the love of reading, needs to be fostered and that begins at home.  My mother grew up on a farm, where reading was something of a luxury.  There was always work to be done, so reading was only done in stolen moments.  I, on the other hand, had nothing but time.  I was sick a lot as a child and people always brought me books to read in bed.  I started with fairytales and comics, then moved onto books like Gulliver’s Travels, The Famous Five and when my sister decided I needed a good scare, Edgar Allen Poe.  I loved escaping into this magical world and while I was hardly a book worm, I enjoyed discovering new stories.  But as I got older and thankfully my health improved, I left books behind for more teenage pursuits.  It was only when I was in my twenties that I reignited my love for reading, reacquainting myself with the wonder of a fully stocked library.  I remembered the feeling of possibility I used to get as a child, knowing that I could pick any book I liked (or three) and then return in three weeks time to start the search all over again.

I’m sure the curriculum has changed since I was in school, but I wonder to what extent the teaching has changed?  Whether it is stated or merely implied, the message filters down that ‘serious’ books are more important and somehow better than, say, romance novels or children’s books.  Book snobbery begins to spoil the experience of reading, just as music snobbery or art snobbery spoils the fun of both creating and enjoying what should be a pleasurable experience.  The term ‘Chick Lit’ is a perfect example of this.  A whole swathe of talented writers are belittled by this insulting term and consequently, their readers.  Reading should, above all, be enjoyable and once this judgmental element is introduced, many people give up on reading altogether.

Reading a certain book doesn’t make you more intelligent any more than drinking absinthe makes you Van Gogh. It’s how you read, as much as what you read.

Matt Haig

It’s so important to cultivate a love of reading from an early age, letting children experience reading as a form of self-indulgent relaxation, instead of another intelligence test. The  ‘One city, one book’ initiative is a great way of getting the younger generation into reading outside of the classroom.  Story Time at your local bookshop or library is another enchanting portal to the world of books, that will teach little ones the joy of losing themselves in the pages of a book.  Forget genres, forget what you ‘should’ read, just enjoy reading.

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5 thoughts on “Learning To Love Books

  1. I think I was a born bookworm. I used to pick anything that had words and colors in it and start reading. My parents introduced me to a library at a very young age, and that gave me more stuff to read. I feel some people are just attracted to books more than others, perhaps it’s genetic, like playing chess or love for anything from childhood. Magnets for attention 🙂

    Of all the things I want to change in the world, I would give anything away for a book program or library than any other. There are so many lavish apartments being build in Bangalore, and the advertisements flaunt the size of swimming pools, gyms, arcades, mini-malls and what not… Not one of them ever mention a reading room or library. That’s really sad, gets me emotional to tell you the truth. In a million sq.foot complex, if a mere 500 sq.feet is made into a library or a reading room, it can do so much for the children and adults in the apartment than a swimming pool can ever do in the long-run. In this age, we need quality bookstores and community interaction about books with books, right?

    It’s nice to see initiatives like One City, One Book and other mobile libraries getting more active in the west. Wish it were the same here. Sorry for the long ramble on such a beautiful thought on reading.

  2. You’re chronology of reading material is just like mine. I also read Edgar Allen Poe at a very young age and Pip in Great Expectations touched my heart (It was on my school curriculum, too). I took a keen interest in Irish literature because of Walter Macken – also on the English curriculum – and devoured Strumpet City, which has remained one of my favourites. I had a very enthusiastic English teacher who instilled a love of writing in me, but I think seeing my father read so much when I was a very young child had a positive effect on me. He would read the back of the cornflakes box if there was nothing left unread, and I mean that literally. 🙂

    1. Hi Jean 🙂 That sounds lovely, growing up around someone who has such a ‘gra’ for reading. And to have a teacher that encouraged your writing? Sounds like you hit the jackpot! x

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