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The Rapid Reading Revival

Here’s why I am so glad I’ve started reading again. (The irony of being an English student whilst saying this has not been lost on me..)

Okay so let’s set some expectations here. I was never a major bookworm or anything, in fact when I was younger I actually didn’t like it all that much. The reason was because I was at the bottom end of my year group both in age and learning development and I wasn’t all that good at reading. And to absolutely no one’s surprise, it meant 5-year-old Ria didn’t muster much enthusiasm for it. Having said that though, I did try my hardest and I have a really specific memory of moving up a reading level from brown to green (it was a big day for me) and running up to my Mum yelling ‘I did it, I did it!’… how sweet. It was the Magic Key series with Biff and Chip. Those were the days…

Care free baby Ria

“I'm so behind

Despite that, I also have specific memories of my best friend Yaz reading The Worst Witch At Sea (this was the final book of the series and the equivalent to Order of the Phoenix in relative size) in year 2 on the carpet in our form room and I remember thinking ‘Oh my God, I’ve literally just managed the first Worst Witch book and struggled, I’m so behind’ (lol). Thanks Yaz, always the overachiever best friend. And so my relationship with reading took the rough with the smooth. I do wish I had read more though because I did find books I really liked, I just got distracted by Club Penguin and Stardoll, which in all fairness I don’t regret entirely…

My Dad is and always has been one of the smartest people I know and I know to me and my sisters he’s always been a bit of a hero in that respect. Now this is down to two things, natural ability (thanks for not passing that onto me Dad) but also his major thirst for reading. Dad always told us growing up how Dadaji (our grandad, our Dad’s Dad) made him read a book a week and write a book report on it. I have heard so many complaints but also major recognition that this not only gave him a love for reading, but a love and wealth of knowledge assisting his natural mental agility. And boy do I wish I had done this.

What I was up to in Sixth Form. Despite applying for an English degree I was doing a lot more art than reading…

Don’t get me wrong, I read a good amount when I was younger but not as much as I should have.

Believe me, I recognise the irony of an English student talking about a lack of interest in reading, shock, horror.

But when I did read, I really enjoyed it. And it just so happens that interest went away a bit. I now recognise that it came down to two things:

  1. Laziness and distraction – I had access to a plethora of amazing texts both at home and school and even online but I just felt I had more important things to be getting up to.

  2. Lack of effort – now this KILLS me to admit. The reason is because my one saving grace at school was that, despite being in the bottom sets and not being generally the best academically, my teachers liked me because I always tried (and was still just a bit shit, lol.) So I hate when my own effort is the cause of problems because it’s the one thing I’ve always had in my arsenal. Alas, I have to admit I just didn’t make an effort to read.

And it’s weird really because I’m actually quite good at reading in terms of speed and understanding and obviously now I study ENGLISH I’ve literally been taught the skills of reading… and I’m paying £9K a year to learn that… (there’s a lot of ironic lol’s in this post I didn’t foresee, you’re welcome). But I digress.

So what’s happened between then and now that I love reading again?

I think genuinely part of it is that I now study English, I have found texts that I love and genres I’m interested in. I mean, imagine telling 5 year old Ria that if she wanted to really enjoy reading she needed to get into Critical Theory and read Edward Said and Frantz Fanon analyse the effects of colonialism and colonial discourse. Obviously that would be ridiculous. But the BIG reason is because I’ve finally learnt HOW to read. Hear me out.

When you’re at school, you learn to read enough to enjoy a book or to write about it to get a good grade for your GCSE’s. It wasn’t really until Sixth form when I had three great English teachers (shout out to Ms. Ridout, Mr. Dalton and Mr. Fanning) who taught texts in what I can now recognise as a more university style way. Ms. Ridout really focused on contextual reading around the texts which I now find key to anything I’m reading because that often gives away more than the book itself. Mr Dalton didn’t set us silent tasks to do, he sat on a chair, read through the text with us and had a discussion. I can say for certain I never made any notes in that class, but I didn’t really need to because I formed the arguments and ideas in my head and that led me in really good stead for uni. Finally, Mr. Fanning was my head of 6th Form and he helped me with my EE for the IB and just generally with English and similarly, he began to teach me university style skills that I didn’t have access to before.

I don’t think knowing how to read in this way is at all necessary. Obviously, you can read Harry Potter without needing to know about J K Rowling’s personal history (though it is incredibly formative) and enjoy it, just as a story. But I think what’s revived my love for reading is being able to read in this new way: more contextually, more worldly and more wisely. I realise at this point I sound like a huge English knob of a student but the sentiment is there.

Who knew it would take a global pandemic to kick start it but I’m finally reading on a daily basis again and getting through books quicker than TV shows and I really love that. I forgot how much escapism and comfort I always did find in literature. I’m always looking for new book recommendations so if you have any, please let me know!


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