Having spent the past three decades of my life reading for pleasure, it’s fair to say I have some favourites.
I’ve absorbed John Grisham, soaked up James Patterson, and formed a lifelong bond with Olivia Goldsmith. I’ve read books that have both made me laugh out loud and sob with sadness. There are some stories I can barely remember months on, and others I know will stay with me for a lifetime. My bookshelves are filled with a few that I’ve read so many times the covers are dog-eared and the pages are falling out. I’ll never get rid of them; they’re like old friends.
But out of all the books I’ve read in my life, some of the ones that still mean the most to me are the ones I read as a child. I can remember lying in bed in my bedroom at my parents’ house, aged six or seven, and pouring over the pages of Anne of Green Gables, Little Women, and The Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe. I can still remember how it felt - though sat in a terraced house in South Yorkshire - to find myself transported to Avonlea, on Prince Edward Island in Canada at the turn of the 19th century. I became ‘bosom buddies’ with Anne, and dearly loved the stern Marilla, and gentle Matthew. I can still feel the pinch of fear I felt the first time Lucy took me through the fur coats and into the wardrobe with her, to a magical world, with fawns, and dwarves, and evil snow queens. I fell in love with the characters, most of whom were older than me then, and who have remained unchanged over the years as I’ve grown. They showed me things I could only dream of, taking me with them on adventures, and sharing in their every sadness and joy right on the page in front of me.
I believe that the books you read in your early years shape the kind of person you will become - your views, your ambitions - and allow you to see more and know more without ever leaving the comfort of an armchair. There isn’t anything else like it.
That’s why I am so delighted to see The Summer Reading Challenge kicking off in Sheffield again this year. The Summer Reading Challenge - a unique partnership between The Reading Agency and public libraries across the UK - encourages children to read six library books during the long summer holiday. Statistics have shown that children’s reading can ‘dip’ during the summer holidays if they don’t have regular access to books and encouragement to read for pleasure. Children up to the age of 11 can take part and there’s a special ‘mini challenge’ for babies, toddlers and pre-schoolers.
Everything changes when we read, so please visit your local library to encourage your children to join in the fun.
* Research shows that reading for pleasure is a more powerful factor in life achievement than socio-economic background and that children who use libraries are twice as likely to be above average readers. The Summer Reading Challenge promotes confidence in independent reading. Visit sheffield.gov.uk/libraries