As someone who in recent years has developed into something of an out of control bibliophile I definitely approve of the principle behind World Book Day. Anything that gets children talking about or showing a love of books can only be a good thing, even if I do slightly resent the fact that due to me working with children I have had to spend the day dressed as Wally from the Where’s Wally books.
My experience from nearly a decade of working with children aged 0-5 is there is something innate about our love of stories. As my role has changed I don’t spend quite as much time with the children as I used to, but whenever I do it is never long before I am brought a book and asked to read it. When I do I usually find a crowd quickly gathers and it is not unusual for me to go home with a sore throat from reading so much. To see this clear enjoyment of books and stories from such a young age never fails to warm the heart.
Not that a love of books must necessarily come from a young age. I grew up in a book loving family. My mum, dad and elder brother would seldom be found without their noses in a book, but I was never a prolific reader. Sport was my first love and at the end of the school day I went straight for the bat and ball and out to the garden rather than to the bookshelves. There were books that penetrated my list of priorities. The Wind in the Willows, Matilda (and Roald Dahl’s entire back catalogue for that matter) and the magnificent Asterix books were all favourites, but it was not my first port of call for entertainment.
As I got a little older I realised that my love of sport could be combined with reading and I turned almost exclusively to sports autobiographies. Looking back now I’m not quite sure how I did this, as with some notable exceptions it is a genre of books that I find it hard to get enthusiastic about now.
Nonetheless I continued to base my reading around them until one afternoon when my view of books changed completely. I was 16 and sitting in what had been my brothers bedroom, but had become mine after he left first for University and then for life. In the corner of the room were two large bookcases filled with his books. Feeling a little bored on a Sunday afternoon I decided to give one a go. Knowing nothing about it other than it involved the Mafia and the subsequent film was seen as an absolute classic I chose Mario Puzo’s The Godfather. For the rest of the day I didn’t put it down. I took it into sixth form the next day on the off-chance I might get a chance to read and I had finished it by that evening.
From that point on books became something that I loved rather than something I would turn to if there didn’t seem to be something better to do. I worked my way through a number of other Puzo titles before discovering classics like To Kill a Mockingbird, Catch-22 and A Tale of Two Cities. I found other authors whose work I love from Oscar Wilde to Jasper Fforde, John Irving to James Ellroy and George Orwell to Ian Fleming.
There have been a few missteps along the way (reading Frankenstein though considered a classic and loved by many nearly put me off reading for life)it’s a love that has greatly enriched my life. My flat is now full of more books than I will probably ever find time to read and that is without even taking into consideration those that remain at my parents house. There are few pleasures I enjoy more than wandering and browsing around a secondhand bookshop and little that makes me feel more relaxed.
World Book Day may mean that I have to sit quite literally dressed as a Wally for a day, but if it can help invest the love of books into others that I have been fortunate enough to develop then I guess it’s a price I will have to pay.