Words & Illustration: Fiona Christensen
Finding the joy of reading once again
As a young girl my parents exposed me to books early on. I had a full bookshelf in my room, filled with books by Enid Blyton, A.A. Milne, Dr Seuss, Roald Dahl and more. Their colourful spines formed a rainbow on the shelf and they were so pretty to look at. I don’t remember exactly when I became infatuated with the words written down on the pages but I do remember that after that, I couldn’t get enough.
I started out with the short stories in those story book compilations, slowly learning new words and sounds as I paged through the books, a few even accompanied by tape. I would delight in the sounds they made in my mind and when put together, the magic they would weave and a whole world would come to life in my hands.
The first books had colourful pictures, setting the scenes and giving clues to the young me on what the story was about, but later as I grew older, my imagination would run wild and no pictures were necessary. I had learned to read before the majority of my classmates and I was filled with pride when I was asked to read for everyone. I loved it. I could read aloud for hours, bringing the story to life with my voice and sharing it with all my friends. And if I wasn’t reading for them, I was reading my parents to sleep at night or my teddy bears, out in the garden.
Our TV broke when I was about six and my parents neglected to replace it. And so, as my friends were watching their favourite programs on TV, I was reading them. I preferred it that way really. I was always a bit of an introvert and so I was happy to remain in my room all day and read. Punishment was not being allowed to read my book, and I was sent outside instead of to my room.
Reading was my form of escape and I would spend all my time doing so. Finishing books the day my mom bought them. School provided my mom with a small break as I was given readers and homework. But I soon moved past those to the years above mine and my mom had to supplement my readers with library books.
I couldn’t understand why many of my friends still hadn’t found the joy in reading that I had, they said it was boring. I was flabbergasted that they did not want to explore fantasy worlds and the lives of others like I did and instead they watched TV or played childish games. My siblings didn’t read either which was good for my parents because I was reading enough books for the three of us.
Though as I got much older and high school came around, prescribed reading became a chore. Everyone was forced to read the same book, most likely about teenage life issues like drugs and pregnancy and the joy of reading was sucked back out as it became something I had to do, as opposed to something I wanted to.
After I left school to go travel, I landed a job at a pre-school where I had to teach the children to read. I felt the wave of nostalgia take me as I remembered my young self, sounding out the letters and sounds and struggling with the ridiculous English language laws.
I began to read again, and it was a delight to sit on the train from my town to London, reading all sorts of books that I found lying around. I was happy again. I had rediscovered my delight, my escape from the real world and I was content. It was like finding my friends after losing them in a crowd, finding comfort in the feeling of the page and the smell of the print.
I decided after that, that I would not study English Literature as I was worried it would remove the joy of reading again. I stayed far from it and I still love nothing more than to snuggle under the duvet when everything is getting too much or the weather is telling me to stay inside and just read, losing myself to the words and the world created in the pages of a good book.