One of my earliest memories is of being sat on my granddad's lap, reading out loud from the Penguin 'Read It Yourself' version of The Pied Piper of Hamelin. I was perched on his knee, while my grandma sat in the opposite chair, and my mum and dad were curled up on the corner sofa. When I finished the book, the bells of the ice-cream van sounded from outside, and my granddad said: "Well, I think that deserves an ice-cream"...
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It engendered in me a life-long love of reading (and ice-cream), which is one that I hope to pass on to my own children by reading bedtime stories.
On BBC Breakfast news this morning there was a discussion about the apparent decline in this activity, and it made me feel rather melancholy: in a busy, time-poor society of Debord's spectacle, there are so many conflicting things competing for our limited attention that it can be both impossible and incredibly comforting to escape into the pages of a good book. It is one of life's many pleasures; a cup of coffee, a cushion, and a book - for me, almost anything will do!
I am still an avid reader, and it is a direct result of my love of reading that I made the decision to continue my education as a mature student; devouring books at speed was a useful skill during my dissertation!
When the Harry Potter books became the phenomenon that we now take for granted, they were credited with increasing reading rates among children. We need another Harry Potter to wave a magic wand over children and their parents alike; something to encourage parents to encourage their children, and realise that reading is both a skill and a joy.