I recently had a conversation with a friend about childhood books, and it was wonderfully emotive. What we read throughout our life changes and develops as we do, following the path of our lives as we find our way in the world. Looking back on what we read, believed, felt and thought is almost like a mini anthropology study; how did we become the way we are, and did what we read impa t the final picture? Or at least, the current picture.
So here is the first blog post looking at what I’ve read, and at how my my reading habits changed, through the years.
I loved books from the word go. My house was full of books, and I have very vivid memories of the window ledge of the front room, facing south, bright and sunny, being lined with books, and pulling them off to look at the words before I could even read. Then as I did become able to read more and more, my books joined those of my parent’s on the ledge, and everywhere else.
My dad worked away a lot, so it was normally just me and my mum at home, on a tight budget. We would make our own board games, do a lot of crafting, and visit the library frequently.
There are three book series that have lodged themselves in my mind so vividly that I have shared them with my son when he was at the appropriate age.
- Puddle Lane is still one of the top series for young children around as far as I’m concerned. The illustrations are stunning, no matter how old they are. They go up in colour bands, starting with single sentences on a page, working up to full pages of words, so children can work their way up whilst staying with same characters. They’re quite magical, and I managed to get hold of twenty or so secondhand when my son was three. Now he’s older I’ve stashed them away to keep for any future possible grandchildren, I love them so much.
- My Alphabet Box is a series with one book per letter, with a rather formulaic approach that is brilliant for helping children starting to learn their letters. If I sounded dramatic above saying I was keeping books for grandchildren, I’m sorry to inform you that my mum did in fact keep these books and they have so far seen through numerous nieces and nephews, friends children and now three grandchildren. I remember reading them, and watching my son read them when he was a little boy warms my heart just thinking about it.
- Fairy Tales & Classics This sounds very general but I can’t be more specific. I can picture the exact brand and even the binding on the books, but can’t remember the name. The series contained everything from Hans Christien Anderson to The Water Babies, and these were the books my parents read to me as I worked my way up to being able to read them myself a few years later. By the time I was curled up reading the same brand, the books were wonderfully worn and familiar in my hands.
I remained attached to books as time went by, and when my brother was born when I was six, I loved to feed him his bottle whilst telling him stories I made up for him. We had this family tradition that I know both my brother and myself have passed down to our children of what we called “Magic Stories”. It started with my Mum and me, and then I went on to do it with my brother. Mum and I would take it in turns to give each other five things, ranging from animals to people to items, and you had to make up a story including all five. It would result in a lot of giggling, and is a wonderful family tradition that I loved to to with my brother when I was feeding him.
When “Magic Stories” weren’t in action, I started experimenting a bit more with what I was reading.
- Jane Austen I read my first Austen book at nine. I was stubborn and was determined to push my way through the language, even when I didn’t understand it all. I knew that Jane Austen was a very influential writer, and so wanted to start reading it as soon as possible.
- Shakespeare Yes, I’m making myself sound like a right tit here, but I never claimed to be east going. When I was ten, I encountered Shakespeare at school for the first time. I remember it very clearly, we had to put punctuation into the Romeo and Juliet script, then learned more about the story. I was captivated immediately. For that Christmas I was given a children’s collection of Shakespeare, done in a comic book strip lay out, using real extracts from the text, but with cartoon characters explaining the missing bits along the sides. This is another one I’ve passed onto my son.
- Goosebumps Like many kids growing up at this point, I loved the Goosebumps books. The perfect balance between engaging, funny, and creepy, without being utterly terrifying, it wasn’t an unusual sight to see me with a pile of them, working my way through. I did once make the mistake of thinking all books by R. L. Stine were aimed at children and read one my mum had, which then gave me nightmares for weeks. Sleep well kids!
- Harry Potter I’m 28, so I am the Harry Potter generation. Funnily enough given what a fan I am now, I wasn’t immediately interested. I was too absorbed in classics like the above to take an interest in some modern magic. Then when over in France, a crisis occurred and I ran out of books. I cycled over to the campsite shop, and the only book that was age appropriate and in English was “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban”. I started reading it, and within three chapters was begging my parents to find someone to borrow the first two from when we got home. Yes. I was a total pain in the ass. From that point I didn’t really stop reading them.
- Egyptology books I became interested in ancient Egypt when I was a young child, and swiftly ran out of child-aimed resources. After memorizing the Egyptian edition of Horrible Histories and watching the single programme available on repeat (recorded on good old VHS), I think my parents must have been sick of hearing it being played as they started allowing me to watch full documentaries, which led on to reading books aimed at adults too. The book I have had the longest is a book about the pyramids.
I know all of these are a bit of an eclectic collection, and it makes me smile thinking about it. I had a space on my windowsill that was big enough for me to sit on, and I would lean against the wall with my knees up, book rested on them, reading for hours. My mum hated me doing it, but gave up asking me not to as I spent so much time in that position.
Thanks for joining me for this first part of my bookish life! In another blog post, I’ll look at early teens, later teens, and adulthood. I’ve really enjoyed writing this post!