Thursday, 7 March 2019
Books were just there. Obviously my parents provided them, and when I couldn't read them myself they read them to me. As soon as I could read, I did. All the time. I can vividly remember a particular book where there was an illustration of a city, seen from above, with the roads lined with buildings, showing where the shops were, the churches, the schools, the police station, the library - and I would lie on the floor tracing a route through this printed city with my finger. Another cherished possession was a set of 'The Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Animal Life' which arrived at my home volume by volume over a period of months, clad in a garish yellow cover (see above). These were pored over relentlessly and I must admit to just assuming that all kids had access to books like these. My nostalgia button was pressed a couple of years ago when I came across a full set of them in a second-hand bookshop - part of me fantasised that they were my very own books that had come back to say hello. Lack of space on the bookshelves stopped me from buying them.
I loved nothing better than taking a book to bed with me and reading well into the night, defying parental wishes for me to go to sleep by reading by torchlight under the covers (yes, that cliche was carried out by yours truly). Graduating onto fiction this nocturnal reading could be Enid Blyton, Jennings and Derbyshire or Molesworth. I was entertained. I was educated. I escaped into another world - no, many worlds.
So the idea that there are kids out there with no books at all, or growing up in a family where books are either in short supply or that reading is discouraged and not promoted is very sad indeed. Those kids are going to miss out on so much, self-discovery for starters. If it is a lack of money that stops them from being able to read books at home, they are not being helped out with an easy visit to the local library. They are closing at a rate (127 last year) and are suffering from funding cuts, staffing shortages and, of those that do remain, a reduction in opening hours. These establishments rely more and more on the help of volunteers. There should be an investment being made here, which will be beneficial to the population as a whole, especially to its mental well-being. But, like so much in our f*cked up country, common sense and 'doing the right thing' seem to be missing.