I think it’s fairly safe to say I have always loved books. I love looking at them, owning them, organising them and more recently talking about them. However I have definitely not always loved reading them. At school I was told I couldn’t read, I was never very good at reading aloud and so my teachers put me on the lowest reading level and left me there. I don’t remember there being anyway of moving up levels after our parents were no longer required to fill in reading reports about our reading at home. I was never given any support by my school to help improve my reading until I got to high school and even then it was only an hour a week of reading aloud with a teaching assistant in a room full of other people who were also reading aloud – suffice to say it didn’t improve my reading or my confidence. I was forced to read aloud to the class and when I messed up on words I was corrected as if stupid and allowed to be sniggered at by other students. I tried to explain to my teachers that I could read quite well in my head and would read aloud in class if given some time to read through my bit before the lesson, to familiarise myself with it and ask for help with a word I couldn’t read. In the end I had to refuse to read in class, it got me in a little trouble but it was better than being laughed at and in the end I stopped being asked.
I have also always struggled with spelling, (looking back at some old school work I’m amazed that no one ever thought that dyslexia could be the cause of all my problems). I wasn’t helped in this department by being told by a teacher that if I couldn’t spell a word I shouldn’t use it(!) I think I was 6 at the time and had made a pretty good go at spelling catastrophic in a story I was writing.
So, throughout most of my school life I had been given the opinion that I couldn’t read, this made me think that reading was like… Brain surgery. Unless you know you can do it well, don’t even try. And so I didn’t read, I wanted to, I might have even picked up a book or two, but as soon as I came across a word I didn’t know or got confused by a sentence I put it down. My parents tried to encourage me to read by starting a book and leaving it mid chapter on my bedside table and tell me I could have 10 more minutes before I needed to turn my light out. I would just turn my light out.
It wasn’t until I was about 13 that I read my first book. I read Girls in Love by Jacqueline Wilson closely followed by the other three in the series. My friend had the set, in beautiful condition on her bookshelf, and I just wanted to own them, but she told me they were really good and didn’t see any reason why I shouldn’t be able to read them. So I did. I read all the classics: Angus Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging, Mates Dates and Inflatable Bras, The Princess Diarys.
I wish I could say that I’ve had a full and satisfying life with books, but sadly it is not so. The first time I tried to read Harry Potter I was totally bored by it and, for some reason, getting defeated by one book in some way has always made me forget about reading for a while. I feel I must say that I have since read all the Harry Potter books and have the appropriate ‘feels’ for them all. (I even stayed up until midnight outside my local bookshop to get the last one the second it came out).
Cue adulthood, I still find myself falling in and out of the habit of reading, which some would say is fine, but I have a very long list of books I’d like to read and book collecting is a very expensive hobby if you don’t actually read the books… So I’m challenging myself to read at least 20 books this year, (you can follow my progress on Goodreads. So far I’m 6 books behind target…) I’m also part of a Sci Fi book group which has me reading a book roughly every 6 weeks and I’m going to talk about books more. So look out for some opinions!
I want to hear your reading stories, can you remember which book really set you on fire for reading? Are you still looking for that book?