When I’m not reading, finding books to add to my wishlist, blogging or ogling attractive actors on tv/in films, I work as an educational researcher. One of the saddest issues that we come across is that the numbers of children who read for pleasure are scarily low. For boys especially. As a lifelong bookaholic it’s something I find incredibly hard to wrap my head around and it makes me feel blue to think of all the children who are missing out on the joy that we all know can be found in a good book. Helping children to fall in love with reading is a battle that many of us are fighting on a daily basis and it got me to thinking, just how did I become the reading obsessed bookaholic I am today? Were there particular things or defining moments that helped me get here?
1. A family of bookaholics
Growing up it never occured to me that there was anything strange about enjoying a book because both my parents and my older brother were avid readers. Books could be found all over the house, in all nooks and crannys, bedtimes always included storytime and one of our favourite things was the pilgrimage to the local library. In the years before my brother entered puberty, when he was actually still interested in spending time outside of his teenage boy cave, he was keen to help me learn to read using the keys on his computer keyboard. It wasn’t until I was older that I learned there were actually people who didn’t enjoy reading. Those people I viewed with suspicion and disbelief, and to this day I’m never entirely sure how to respond when they say ‘I don’t read!’ Other than silently thinking ‘Weirdo’.
Early on I was introduced to landmark series like The Famous Five, Secret Seven, Nancy Drew and The Little Vampire. It would be safe to say that I quickly became obsessed with the characters. They were my friends and I would often invent outlandish tales where I would pass them off as real friends and relatives to others in my class. Reading the Famous Five and Nancy Drew made me anxious to explore and unearth mysteries, though my brother was less than pleased when that would involve me ‘investigating’ in his bomb site of a room. The Little Vampire also inspired a love of the supernatural that has stayed with me my entire life although the vampires I read about these days tend to be more on the sexy side! 😉
By the time I was in secondary school I was convinced I was going to be a journalist – and not just any old journalist but a Pulitzer prizewinning journalist. To that end, my English teacher encouraged me to study English literature at university, to read as widely as possible, and would give me university level books to help me get ready. Through him I was introduced to The Mayor of Casterbridge and Orlando as well as the works of Primo Levi, Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Lord Byron. I strangely didn’t enjoy studying English, switching to Politics after one semester, and obviously never quite made it to the New York Times but he did open up a whole new world of reading that involved new, exciting genres, and inspired a love of the Classics which I’ve never gotten over. Pulitzer prize or not, I will always be grateful to him for that.
4. Back to class
For years when I wasn’t reading, I was writing but, as so often happens, life got in the way and I started to write less and less, before stopping all together. To help me get back into it, I decided to take the plunge and signed up for an evening class in creative writing. Not only did it work but two other things happened as well – 1)I met a fellow bookaholic who became a very good friend and 2)I was encouraged to read books like The Book Thief, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society, and Water for Elephants which have become some of my favourite books of all time. These were the books that achieved the impossible and somehow managed to increase my bookaholism tenfold!
What about you? Do you know kids that don’t like to read?
What inspired you to become a bookaholic?