Confessions of a Book worm…

I Don’t Own a Kindle!

Shocking though this may seem, I don’t own a Kindle. I’m old school: I like the feel and smell of books.  I love walking into a bookshop (sadly more of them are disappearing from our high streets) and forgetting all about time. Technology is a wonderful thing and I can absolutely see the appeal if you are travelling.  Ten years ago, I was enjoying a round the world spree and the only thing that kept my book supply going was the excellent Book Exchanges to be found in every town I found myself in.  And if ever I’m lucky enough to do more long term travel then I will probably invest in a Kindle so I can squeeze more shoes into my rucksack. 

On the whole though, books are about the whole experience for me.  I love to pick them up and feel the weight of them, examine the size of the text and decide if it really is a long term investment or just a book with large print, flick the pages and read the odd snippet or simply check out the blurb and any comments there may be.  I am also a lover of reading in the bath. For me, this is the ultimate in relaxation: a good book, cup of tea or wine depending on the time of day, music on and lashings of bubble bath.  I can’t see how having a Kindle would be anything other than terrifying in such a situation.  At least if you drop your book you only end up with a few wrinkled pages…

As for children’s books, they are in a whole other category.  Many children’s books have lift the flap or textures.  The illustrations are key to the text giving clues and subtle little extra stories throughout the book.  I’m just not sure how much that would translate to a digital screen.  Any child growing up now (and this is increasingly so in the developing world as well) will experience books on a device.  In fact, it might be more accurate to say they will experience life on a device.  Technology is truly amazing and can do wonderful things but I still don’t think you can set aside the joy of a real book and children should be actively encouraged to use both.

On a practical note, I am also a little bit concerned about the Kindle User’s eyesight.  I have had a Smart phone for just over a year and a tablet for about three months and already I have noticed a real difference.  Whereas in the past, my glasses were strictly for reading books only, now I find that restaurant menus, cooking instructions and emails on tablet and phone are impossible to read without them.  Am I the only one who is worried for youngsters growing up now with their eyes permanently fixed on a tiny screen and words?  But I digress.  The real purpose of this blog is to talk about reading so let’s get on with it…

When I was still in teaching, one of the first joys of the summer holidays was a day spent choosing some books to read. During term time, reading for pleasure was a luxury that just didn’t happen.  Reading for other people, reading data, reading about how rubbish teachers are were the only written sources I ‘enjoyed’!  So when the metaphorical bell sounded on the last day of term, I knew that the next couple of weeks would mean reading for ME.

Picture the Scene

Having slept solidly for approximately two days, I would venture into town with a sense of excitement.  Switching my phone to silent, I would walk into the book shop and take a moment to just stand and take it all in.  Book shops and libraries are wonderful things.  Rows and rows of words just waiting to be devoured like chocolates or sweets.

Now some people can be really snobby about reading.  How many 100 best ever works of literature lists have been compiled?  Most Sunday supplements and even social media seem to carry them on an almost weekly basis. In my opinion they only serve to make certain people feel smug and somehow better than those who scored lower than themselves.  And yes, I have been guilty of perusing these lists and punching the air when I have scored a respectable score.  But this doesn’t mean that my book choices are better than yours.  I’ve read some of the greats from those lists – The Brontes (of whom I actually prefer Anne), Jane Austen (who I’m a little indifferent to),Thomas Hardy (who I found interminable), Leo Tolstoy (loved Anna Karenina) and Truman Capote (sacrilege but I prefer the ending of the film Breakfast at Tiffany’s) but I’ve also indulged in books that I just love despite not appearing on any list.

Reading means different things to different people.  For some it is purely to gain information and facts.  For others it is to be challenged and taken out of their comfort zone.  And for others, and I would generally put myself in this category, it is to escape.  For the same reason that I don’t watch Soap Operas, I don’t want to read a book that is going to remind me of mundane life,  depress me or reduce me to tears of anguish every 5 minutes. Similarly, I don’t want to be carried away on ‘chick lit’ gushing either but I can’t deny I’ve read a few on the beach when I needed to just re-charge. Choosing a book is a purely personal point of view and one that gives me no right to pass comment on other people’s literary taste or for them to mock mine.

Like many people I have specific genres that I return to time and again.  For me, it’s historical faction (fiction based on fact) or crime as long as it’s not too gruesome! Favourite authors include Phillipa Gregory and Allison Weir but I also enjoy Ellis Peters, Agatha Christie, Michael Jecks, Georgette Heyer and Mary Stewart.  These are my comfy slippers of the literary world.  I return to them time and again.  Some people find it odd that I can re-read and re-read books, (especially crime) but it’s something I enjoy.  Teaching took over my life for so long that it was often easier to pick something that was familiar. One of the joys of leaving teaching is discovering new authors and new genres that I simply wouldn’t have considered before.  And ironically, I now find myself choosing to read articles about education and government policy. Resentment and fatigue has been replaced by interest and new found energy!

I suppose what I’m really trying to say is, it doesn’t matter what you read as long as you read something.  Being able to read is a gift that everyone should enjoy and that is why I will always be passionate about sharing books, rhymes and stories with children from the moment they are born. And if they choose to read on a kindle or other hand held device instead of a book, at least they will be reading. They may not grow up to read all the books on the current top 100 literary bests list but they will be richer for having words in their life. 

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