Reading 1

I don't remember when I first learnt to read. I do know it has been a lifetime passion

I have very little sense of times or dates, so I don’t remember when I first learnt to read. I do know it has been a lifetime passion.

I joined the public library as soon as I was eligible, and I am still a member. The library in Wallsend was housed in an old inconvenient building, which had a very small junior section. I progressed from the ‘Pink Fairy’ books through the ‘Colours of the Rainbow’, to Arthur Ransom’s ‘Swallows and Amazons’ books, to Capt. Johns with ‘Biggles’ and ‘Worral of the WAAF’ to more serious reading with Hugh Walpole and the ‘Herries’ series. Biographies and history were also on my list.

My family supported my passion for reading, except when I was supposed to be doing chores or helping round the house. During the war when publishing was restricted, I still had lots of books for birthdays and Christmas, admittedly some with the previous owners’ names deleted or cut out. Two titles stick in my mind, but not the authors, both books were presents from my father ‘Greentree Downs’, a story of teenage adventures in Australia, and ‘Flaxen Braids’, which was set in Austria or Switzerland.

I was also allowed a weekly magazine and progressed from ‘Enid Blyton’ to the teenage ‘Girls Crystal’. This was totally unlike present teenage magazines, it had stories but no advice on beauty tips or anything else. As I was not allowed to read in bed and my bedroom had a fanlight over the door, I either covered this with a blanket or used a torch under the blanket. Reading in bed is still a pleasure.

Miss Tallentyre, my English teacher at the grammar school, greatly encouraged me to read the classics and more modern authors such as Hammond Innes. However, I have never liked Shakespeare, and on a school outing to see Laurence Olivier in ‘Hamlet’ I was bored to tears. Reading ‘Julius Caesar’ for the GCE exam did nothing to change my opinion. English literature lessons to me were a joy, but Latin and Chemistry I could do without.

Reading for me was a time of great adventure and daring deeds, without having to move from the comfort of an armchair. All I needed was a book. Being older now and not interested in computers, it seems to me that insufficient emphasis is placed on reading or using your imagination.

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