I struggled as a kid to read. I was later diagnosed with dyslexia but at the time I just knew that books weren’t that fun, except of course when they were read in my mothers melodramatic voice, particular for Roald Dahl’s The Witches. I struggled over each word, and because of this could see nothing more than ink on paper laid out in a confusing manner that I was somehow expected to read. I was jealous and felt stupid as my friends rushed ahead, reading the Goosebumps books and in turn the Point Horror series, having conversations that I wasn’t able to join in with.
The first book I remember getting lost in is The Tale of Jeremy Vole by Stephen Lawhead. It was the first time words on a page were able to translate into images in my head. I could close my eyes and watch the vole swim down the river, surrounded by weeds and the muddy river bank. I can’t remember if I re-read the story again and again, but that image in my head is so strong it feels like a scene from a film. It was the first time I could escape to another world in my own head, translated from ink on paper.
The second book I remember getting addicted to is Enid Blyton’s Famous Five. It was a gift from my Aunty, and I would curl up at night under my bedsheets, desperate to finish the story before I went to bed. Inevitably I would fall asleep and dream the rest of the story, as if they were my real friends in my own life. I wanted some of that adventure in my real life, and some of that bravery too.
Reading gives us the freedom to imagine possibilities, to escape our own lives and to learn how to empathise with others. Reading reminds us that we live in a diverse world, that our story is just one of many. Reading is this and so much more; it’s opportunity that we all should have access to.
Happy #InternationalLiteracyDay people, embrace reading.