Books are the stepping stones to imagination

I’ve loved books for as long as I can remember. As a child, my parents and I would read Shirley Hughes, Janet and Allan Ahlberg, Lyn Wendon, Michael Rosen and Val Biro, the latter of which visited my primary school when I was six and kindly signed my ‘Gumdrop Goes To School’ book for me.

Books have always been a huge part of my life and I simply adored the way in which they would teach me new things and open up my imagination. Reading gave me the encouragement to write my own little collection of short stories, which I would jot down in a purple notepad and hide underneath my pillow. My stories would be about daft little adventures which I could only wish to be a part of – a girl called Jenny who was forever on holiday, travelling from place to place, hotel to hotel, never having to go to school. Georgina who lived with her family in a village on top of the trees in a forest (the technical impossibilities in this one were astonishing). My favourite and the most ridiculous of the lot was about a girl called Amber, who for her birthday had S Club 7 visit her house and announce that they were going to be moving in. (Judge all you want, S Club 7 were undeniably brilliant).

Until I was about eleven years old I always thought I was going to be an author, and I had a plan that my brother would illustrate the stories I’d written because he was, and still is, so brilliant at drawing. We would become a dynamic and unstoppable book-producing team, creating beautiful and enchanting universes, magical creatures, and fantastically bold and enthralling characters. Reading was just what I did, and unveiling the depths of an author’s creative mind is what fed me the passion to formulate and explore my own.

When I moved up to senior school I decided I didn’t want to write fiction anymore, and I turned my interests to writing non-fiction. My magical stories and poems were discontinued and instead I fell in love with writing in a style suitable for newspapers, magazines and blogs like this one. In spite of this, my passion for reading was still strong, and I had become sucked into the Jacqueline Wilson teenage stereotype. Oddly I was never drawn to Harry Potter, but I had since become a fan of Lemony Snicket’s works as well as Louise Rennison and Meg Cabot. In the words of my English teacher, “trash fiction”.

A few years later, I chose to study English Literature at A Level, and then again for my degree at University. Literature was the only subject I was really any good at, and in truth selecting it had become a natural instinct. The irony was, I had started to hate books.

Reading had quickly become a chore. A piece of homework. A murky scribble on my To Do list continually put off time and time again just because I simply did not want to do it. It was heartbreaking, because something which I used to love so much had so rapidly become something I had grown to loathe. I wasn’t enjoying being told what I had to read and how long I had to do it. Literature should offer the freedom to enjoy a book at a pace you find comfortable, without the overwhelming pressure of a deadline hanging over you. But sadly that’s not how an English degree works – you have a target to meet and if you fail to meet that target, you get left behind.

So at the start of this summer holiday, I finally decided enough was enough, and I set myself a mission to fall in love with books again. And while it’s a shame that re-reading my collection of Shirley Hughes and Michael Rosen would not be in my best interests, the beauty of imagination is that it is not an age-restricted privilege. The novels I read as an adult can be just as magical and enchanting, if I open my mind a little and give them the chance they deserve. With an alteration in my attitude, reading can and will become a hobby I learn to love again.

All it will take is the right book to get me there.

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