Reminder about Reading

As school is well and truly underway, and winter (ugh) approaches, I wanted to republish this essay from my dear friend Kevin Whelan as a reminder to us all. Reading should always be a pleasure and one that we pass on to the children with joy... but, as we all know, sometimes it's just not that easy. In the effort that is made to get them through the curriculum boxes, sometimes the joy of reading for pleasure gets lost. It's too important. Don't let it.


                          By Kevin Whelan

When I was a child [not a ‘kid’: as my nephew Ciaran Whelan always reminds me, “A kid is a goat”] a book was a fantastic thing to hold in one’s hands; turning the cover for the first time was like opening a secret door and stepping through into…what? And where? Somehow I knew that I could leave my life and its Sunday night school worries and other various minor troubles behind: for a few minutes or hours, I could engage in a form of nothing less than time travel.

     I mean how cool was that?

     It was always really exciting to turn the pages and see where the author took me.  It was as though they had gently taken my hand: I was going to have to trust them as much as they were going to trust me. I knew unpredictable and downright crazy things were going to happen. Better than that: I would meet real heroes and real villains and have adventures, real adventures, and feel happy and scared, and all sorts of other emotions.

       A good book was even a kind of food substitute; it fed my imagination and my heart. Good books still do. Which is a pretty incredible deal when you think about it. And they’re additive and calorie free. Organic too, I wouldn’t bet.

   Another thing: Reading should be a pleasurable, enjoyable experience. If you find a particular book ‘boring’ or too ‘difficult’ for you at the time, don’t feel that you have
‘failed’. You will not have. Put it aside or, pass it on to a friend. After all there are other books to read, thousands
and thousands of them—thank God. Sometimes you have to be ‘ready’ for a book, the way you need to be ‘ready’ when certain people come into your life—the good and the bad—and have the intelligence to recognise which is which: The ‘boring’ or ‘difficult’ book might one day turn out to be the ‘exciting’ and ‘easy’ book. The same of course applies to people.

   And if you don’t understand what I mean now then you might, one day—though I also accept that some books and some people are both ‘boring’ and ‘difficult’—and bad too. But you can’t have everything.

   But perhaps the simplest thing to tell someone who ‘hates’ reading is “I feel really sorry for you—you don’t know what you’re missing.”

   But we do.


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