National Year of Reading

By PD Martin

Sometimes when it’s my turn to blog I have to scramble for ideas. But today, I had three potential topics!  

 

  1. Valentine’s Day. I lucked out and drew Valentine’s Day for my Wildcard Tuesday. So I should write a blog about that, right? You know, tracing the history, talking about what it means to me…yada, yada, yada. But forget it…I’ve got other things to write about today. And I’m sure there will be loads of blogs around on Valentine’s Day. And if not, just go to Wikipedia for your fix.
  2. Option 2 was relevant to the date, because tonight (Aussie time) I’m launching the National Year of Reading at one of my local libraries. I’m one of the ambassadors and this is my first duty of the year. In fact, when this goes live I will have just finished giving my speech. 
  3. Option 3 came around on the weekend. While I believe writing is a craft more than an art, I still consider myself to be a creative, artistic person. And as a creative, artistic person I am upset, outraged and angry at the wasted talent of the one and only Whitney Houston. So much so, I considered writing a blog on it.

In the end, I’ve gone with option 2, the reading theme, because it seems so relevant to this forum, to Murderati.

For the launch I was asked to speak a little about reading and what reading and books meant to me. I’ve decided to write about some of these things today.

First off, I was lucky because I always loved reading. I didn’t need Harry Potter or fancy ebooks on iPads to engage me – I just needed a book. Sure, there were books I loved more than others, books that I read over and over again. Childhood greats like The Wishing Chair, The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe and Famous Five and Nancy Drew come to mind. But pretty much any book would do me. I’d devour them, keen to move on to the next story, or the next book in a series.

So, what did I love about books and reading? Some people talk about the feel of a book, the feel of turning pages. But for me, although my childhood reading was solely hardcopy based, it was never about the feel of a book, it was about the words on the page, or more specifically about where the book would take me. You can pick up a book and be anywhere in the world, or not in this world at all. Whether it’s reading about a cop in the US, a bodyguard in England or reading about the hobbits travelling to Middle Earth, books take you somewhere else, give you another experience. Sometimes that experience can be grounded in reality or what might be possible, like crime fiction, drama or even romance stories (although many would argue they’re not based in any realism at all!). And at other times, the world you’re transported to is fictional, fantastical. Whether it’s travelling with Lucy, Edmund, Susan and Peter to Narnia or following the lives of Bella and Edward in Twilight, these books take you to another world, a world that is appealing, interesting or intriguing in some way. 

Reading’s also about emotion, about how a story makes you feel. Reading has the ability, the power , to take you on emotional highs and lows. You can be inspired by triumph, moved or heartbroken by tragedy or drama, intrigued and challenged by a whodunit or you can simply get away from it all with an escapist read. These escapist reads could come in the form of classic fantasy novels, horror books, paranormal stories or even romance. And while some people like the more literary style of writing and others prefer a good vampire book, it’s all reading. And it’s all story telling. Sure, it’s changed a lot over the years. Originally it was people telling stories around campfires or ‘drawing’ stories. Then, as we evolved, stories became about the written word rather than the spoken word. They were about reading, not listening. And now, well in some ways we’ve come full circle with audio books that allow people to listen to stories, but they’ve also evolved to another level with ebooks. Our kids may read online, and via ereaders or i-Somethings, but they will still read. In fact, I think ebooks give these technology-savvy generations the ability to combine reading with gadgets and hopefully that will lead to an increase in the love of reading, and most importantly of literacy.

Reading is also ultimately why I became a writer – I think why anyone becomes a writer. Authors love hearing and reading stories, and most importantly we love telling our own stories.

However, I do have a confession to make. My reading is currently in a massive trough, which actually started when I got published. Like many authors, I found myself juggling tight deadlines and reading non-fiction research books instead of reading for pleasure. Plus I became a mother soon after I became published, which meant juggling the dual acts of motherhood and writing; and I’m also one of those authors who prefers not to read while writing. These things add up to not much reading.

However, I am inspired to read more this year. Inspired by the National Year of Reading, and by my role as an ambassador. What about you? What are your reading plans for the year? And what are your childhood memories of stories taking you to different worlds or on emotional highs and lows? 

11 thoughts on “National Year of Reading

  1. Karen in Ohio

    That's exactly right, that reading is reading, no matter what the medium. For lack of anything better I've been known to devour the information on the side of the milk carton or cereal box.

    Happy Valentine's Day, and don't forget to check the Google page today. Click on the arrow to find out "what women want". It's so simple, really.

  2. Sarah W

    I think the best reading experiences just happen, like cats. So I'm planning to read whatever crosses my path!

    Reading was my childhood escape and protection, my entertainment, and my constant companion. No one who knew me then is at all surprised that I became a librarian.

  3. Pari Noskin

    I hated reading as a child, felt forced into it.
    It was only when I went to France as a foreign exchange student in high school — at 15 years old — and was so hungry for English books, that I found what is now one of my greatest pleasures,.

    Reading has taken me to places I can never reach in my real life: alien worlds, the past, the future, to alternate realities and stunningly dissected realities. It has sparked ideas for my work, given me ammunition for topics I want to write about, propelled me to take action when I would've been happier (I thought) to sit quietly and watch television.

    One of my proudest things as a parent is that both of my children adore reading for leisure and pleasure. They're both teens, so this is especially wonderful.

  4. Tom

    P.D., I simply cannot imagine my life – or myself – without books. Facts, methods, imaginings – these are the keys to the universe. Well, mine, at least.

    My mother told me she would read to me, when I was an infant, and I would object loudly when she stopped. "WHAT have I done?" she asked herself.

    So for me, I think, it has always been the fact of storytelling, then the words, then the physical fact of the book, that kept me reading.

    And, sometimes, writing.

  5. Debbie

    I started reading to my daughter when she was a few days old. Before she could talk she was turning pages and we caught her on video, quite accidentely, when she read out loud for the first time at maybe 14 mts. The joke now is that I had to have a C-section with her to get the book out.

    As for me, I plan to finish the complete works of Dickens and already read The Old Curiosity Shop and am half way through Barnaby Rudge. I also plan to work in Tolkien's works related to The Hobbit and LOTR, including his inspiration, Beowulf. I started a log in a note on FB just to see how I progress.
    Last year I dedicated a good part to reading A Suitable Boy. Go pick up a copy at the library, I mean, just lift it up. I dare you! πŸ˜€

    So how did the talk go? What was the age range?

  6. ZoΓ« Sharp

    Hi Phillipa

    I've always read a lot, but my earliest memories were the Beatrix Potter books. I knew the word 'soporific' at a very young age because of THE TALES OF PETER RABBIT – I think it was that one, anyway. Apparently I could 'read' them before I could read, because I knew the stories off by heart, including the right moment to turn the pages.

    I've been bluffing like that ever since πŸ™‚

  7. lil Gluckstern

    Reading is like blood for me. While I like paper books, I love my kindle because it goes to appointments with me, and reassures me. My mom took me to the library when I was four, and when I was sick, my "medicine" was a Little Golden Book. Anyone remember those? I think you writers work incredibly hard. I have been transported, frightened, soothed, enlightened, amused and bemused by these groups of words that appear on the page. My children were read to from very early on, and my first present to the grandchildren were books-before they were born. I have no trouble celebrating the year of reading.
    Forever.

  8. Laura

    From where I sit, I can actually see our Little Golden Book spinner! So they're still kicking. :p
    I can't remember not reading, my earliest were Enid Blyton, which turned into Nancy Drewe and then I devoured the whole Sweet Valley range. I think that's where I got passionate about it. I was transported into this world, where I felt like I knew the characters (I'm a sucker for a series) and even when Sweet Valley Confidential came out (Sweet Valley High 10 years later) I was so excited I could barely sleep. I wanted to find out what these people I felt like I had grown up with had been up to all these years! (I still maintain that I will have been more excited about that book than my own 10 year high school reunion next year)
    I totally agree with you that reading, is reading. I work with a lot of people with what you'd call "literary" tastes. (And yes I cop a lot of flak for my love of Sweet Valley and trashy teen fiction!) And there's nothing wrong with that. But I think sometimes they miss the point. It doesn't matter if the kid wants to read Twilight. They're reading.
    Great post πŸ™‚

  9. PD Martin

    Sorry, everyone. Grace had a day off school and we were up early this morning Aussie time to go to Adventure Park (water theme park, 1.5 hours' drive away). I thought I'd get a chance to check in before we left but I didn't!

    Karen, yes, I read milk cartons and cereal boxes too, but I think it's more a remote thing for me than devouring the written word πŸ™‚ I just went to Google but I obviously missed it! Sounded fun.

    Sarah, I look forward to hearing about some of the books you're reading! And it's great you found a job that fits perfectly with your passion for books.

    Pari, so glad to hear you eventually came around to reading. Imagine if you had NEVER got into it. Different world, huh? And I hope Grace will love reading in her teens too.

  10. PD Martin

    Yes, Tom, definitely the story telling. And I don't think it's much of a stretch sometimes to go from reading books to writing them. Reading a book and writing one often feels similar to me (although it takes me longer to write a book than to read one).

    Debbie, very cute about your daughter! You've got some great reading planned for the year. Although I think your description of A Suitable Boy has already put me off that one. The talk went really well, thank you. I was up with a comedian (extremely tough act to follow) but it was a great environment. About 40 people there and probably most 40+ but we had one mother and daughter (daughter about 13) and then one man who was well into his seventies! Mostly 50s and 60s though. Is that the average library crowd, you think?

    Zoe, yes, Grace often 'reads' stories that way too. Amazing. I love watching her say what she remembers and then add in the rest.

  11. PD Martin

    Thanks, Lil! Great to hear you're passing the reading bug on too. I remember the little Golden Books. We even have a couple for Grace. And yes, writers do work hard! Not that I'm biased πŸ™‚

    Laura, glad you enjoyed the post! I think anything whatever makes young people read is appealing and wonderful. Harry Potter, Twilight…they all work for me! I shared your early childhood tastes of Enid Blyton and Nancy Drew but never got into the Sweet Valley series. I did like the Flowers in the Attic series though! And I also love the excitement of a new book.

    Phillipa

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