Spreading the joy of reading

What better way to enjoy the long, hot summer days than by lounging outside with a glass of lemonade and your favourite book? Or, in winter, by curling up on the sofa with a mug of cocoa in one hand and a great novel in the other?

Reading is a holiday that everyone can afford. Books can transport us to other lands, to new adventures, they entertain and instruct, they give us new friends and allow us to identify with their characters, to realise that the world is so much greater than what we can know and see with our own eyes, though not so large as to be overwhelming. At heart, we all go through similar struggles and share the same joys. And it is through reading that we can come to realise this. Not that everyone needs a book to teach them this, but, for some, it helps. And it certainly doesn’t hurt! 😉

By opening a book, we’re opening a whole new world of possibilities. As we read—whatsoever we may choose to read—we deepen our language comprehension which aids us in other areas of life, such as communication and understanding. We may find our ability to understand the sometimes complex language used in official forms and newspapers, strengthened. And, if we happen to gain a greater understanding of people, history, science, or even ourselves in the process, so much the better.

For most writers, reading is a pleasure, a joy, and a much-coveted leisure activity. But, for others, reading may, at times, feel like a bit of a slog. Perhaps it isn’t something they are accustomed to doing, for various reasons. Or, perhaps it just isn’t something they’ve given much thought to, as they keep busy with other activities.

This is something that’s been on my mind for a while now. As a writer—and a reader—I’d like others to have the opportunity to experience the same joy and pleasure from reading that I do. Or, even if they do not enjoy it to the same extent that I do, they should at least have the chance to be exposed to reading in a positive way that honours them as an individual. Because reading is so often an individual past time, though it needn’t always be.

With my MLitt in its final stages, I decided that I needed to start looking for ways to become more involved in promoting literacy. After all, I’m now a published writer 😉 .

One of the ways which occurred to me was to do some volunteering with organisations which promote reading. Tomorrow I’m going along to a community reading group which takes place in a local library. Note that I said a ‘reading group’ and not a ‘book group’. All reading takes place during the session itself, with a passage read aloud and responded to by anyone who may wish to attend, book lover or not.

But there are lots of ways to promote literacy in your community, from volunteering to read at a local school, to participating in your local Bookcrossing scheme where you leave a book in a public place in order that someone else may find and read it (for more information on this scheme, visit: http://www.bookcrossing.com/ ). Promoting literacy can be as simple as reading to your child before bed, or helping an elderly neighbour pick up some titles from the local library, seeing as you were going there anyway 😉 .

So, how about you? Have you been to any reading groups? Or, are you part of a book club? If you’re a writer, do you think that we have the responsibility to promote reading and literacy in our communities? If so, what actions have you taken to do this? I’d love to hear your thoughts, so please leave a comment below.

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Thanks for reading! 🙂

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Libraries

Do you visit a library regularly? I do. I’m lucky in that I have a fantastic library just ten minutes’ walk from where I live.  In fact, after having visited numerous libraries throughout London while researching The Forest King’s Daughter, I’m convinced that my library is the best.

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Islington Central Library

I visit every week–sometimes twice a week–to pick up books, music, dvds and also to print when my printer refuses to be of any use. As a writer I find the resources my local library provides to be invaluable. Not only can I search their online catalogue and reserve items (for free!) but I can also use the space provided by the library as a free study/writing space—no overpriced lattes required (however, if they began offering them I wouldn’t object 🙂 ).

I’ve used their materials to help me research stories as well as to assist me when doing practical things like attempting to fix the bathroom sink and applying for graduate school, as well as for not so practical things, like trying to bake a special cake.

cake

Of course, a lot of this information can now be found online, but I like the idea of going somewhere to discover, to explore, because sometimes sitting at your computer can get a little dull.

Recently I’ve taken out several books on Native American history and culture as part of my research for my next novel. The fact that I can get the books for free allows me to sample them in a way I couldn’t afford to if I had to pay for them all.  It means I can try out books before purchasing them, if indeed I decide purchasing them is necessary. I can also take out music which is related to the subject I’m writing about, painting and photography books, all of which help me to create and build the world I aim to depict, to immerse myself in the story.

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The library also allows me to dabble in other subjects I might not be able to afford to otherwise, like poetry. Recently I’ve been exploring the work of Seamus Heaney and Benjamin Zephaniah, amongst others. And when someone recommends a book, I can try it out before buying. The fact that there are so many free books available at the library gives me opportunities I would not otherwise have as I can’t afford to buy books every month, and books bring me such a lot of enjoyment. 🙂

Some people can afford to do some ‘retail therapy’ when they’ve had a bad day. I go for the ‘library therapy’ option. Bad day? Go take out a new novel, or how about a dvd to take your mind off it? Okay, I know a lot of people have everything at their fingertips through their computers now, but you still have to pay for films that you watch online, and music you download from iTunes, but at the library it’s free! And guess what, they also loan free e-books! So you don’t even have to visit to enjoy what they have to offer.

But I still like to, because I get tired of everything happening through my computer screen, a phone or some other electronic device.  Sometimes it’s just nice to go where there are books, and people. You know, the kind with arms and legs who walk places?

011 stick figure from morguefile

How about you? Do you use a library regularly? If so, what is your experience of it? I’d love to hear your thoughts so please leave a comment below.

Until next time!