I can remember it clearly, that first moment I sat down to read a book off my own back. These weren’t Biff, Chip and Kipper books anymore, nor were they the occasional exploration of Dahl in the confines of the classroom (although I would revisit Dahl later on). Instead, it was a book given to me at 11 (I discovered reading a bit later on in life than most), called The Crowfield Curse by Pat Walsh.
While initially I planned to never read a single page of it, by chance, an excess of boredom, and having read the first thirty pages at school during a quiet reading hour, I finally discovered the cliched expression of the magic of a good book. From there my first book turned into a hobby and then rather surprisingly a lifestyle of escape, as I consumed the worlds of words contained within a book.
I remember everything so clearly because I largely have books to thank for who I am today. At 11, I had just failed my grammar school entry exams for English, passing maths with flying colours. I was bitterly disappointed but, no matter how hard I tried in lessons, I never could quite grasp the finer literary skills. All the times I had picked up a book before were always with the aim to make me better at English, and that made it a chore rather than an escape. I didn’t want to read outside of school because if that’s what school wanted me to do, that would make it homework and no one really likes homework, do they?
It was the first time I could read a book without the pressures to learn around me.
It wasn’t a quick affair, I think it took a total of three weeks to finish, and yet somehow this one book changed my relationship with reading in an instant. I didn’t quite love it yet, but as a pastime it was certainly engaging enough.
I remember soon after asking my mum to take me to the library (excited though unconvinced at my sudden change of attitude towards books). I wandered in, and having questionably grown up on crime TV shows like Bones and CSI, I picked up Emma Kennedy’s Wilma Tenderfoot and the Case of the Frozen Hearts, and I finished it in about a week. Slowly then I made my way through Kennedy’s series and dipped into my own collection of Dahl books like Matilda and Danny and the Champion of the World. However, the moment I truly realised I had fallen in love with reading was when books began to make their way onto my Christmas and Birthday lists.
What was most amazing about my newly discovered love though, was how it changed me to become better at English. All the things I felt forced to connect suddenly developed while reading on the couch. My hobby was developing my English skills which paved the way for the escapist learning experience I crave today. I’m not particularly someone who loves to learn in the classroom, but give me a book that deals with the problematic nature of time encompassed in a metanarrative of a library and a talking ape, and I’ll pick up a lot of real-life knowledge from it.
I seek books to escape, but I always choose the ones that let me fall in love with reading all over again while learning something real from their narrative. That first book back when I was eleven helped paved every step I’ve taken since, and there’s nothing I cherish more than that first moment.