Reader Extraordinaire

Every superhero has an ‘origin’ story of how they came into being. If applied to myself, How did I begin to be a reader, and eventually a writer?

I have to say, I have loved this challenge, (last week’s Weekly Challenge from WordPress) as it’s one of the most interesting I have attempted. Some of the challenges, especially the daily ones, have become repetitive, thinking about how I began to devour books, and my faltering beginnings as a writer has brought back lots of memories, though not always good ones. Part of the challenge was not simply to answer the eight questions suggested by the writer of the prompt but to put together a tale. Predictably, my notes grew exponentially as I answered each question, never being one to be succinct. My mum said recently ‘why write in 2 what you can write in 22, eh?’

When I told this to a friend who works in fundraising, she laughed and said when they present a pitch to organisations and the like for funding they are told the complete opposite. I am so relieved I am a writer and not a fundraiser, I’d never manage it! Proving this to be true, I’ve had to split this post into two, with the second part scheduled for Wednesday.

Reading was my very favourite hobby

The image shows two young, pretty, blonde-haired little girls sitting close together, with a book on their knees which they are reading together.
The image shows two young, pretty, blonde-haired little girls sitting close together, with a book on their knees which they are reading together. image credit: Horton Web Design (view the website at: http://www.HortonGroup.com

Growing up, I do not remember which books were read to me as a small child. I have lots of early, disability, special nursery and school related memories, but not of books read at bedtime, or other times. Wondering if that reflects differences of experience rather than being a reflection on my upbringing. My mum especially must have read to us lots as she was the one at home with my brother and I.

I remember very clearly being assessed by the Educational Psychologist on reading and maths ability because of my disability, and even at age 7, I remember my reading age being ahead of my actual age. I loved that, I was so pleased… as were my family. It was something that was good progress that was not related to my disability, but showed I had some intellectual ability, especially as I was thought have such a level of learning difficulties when I was born that they questioned whether I could finish primary school, but this proved to be the start of dispelling those fears. (My parents say I was always a couple of years behind my peers in maths though.)

Writing for children wasn’t yet ‘cool’!

Enid Blyton – Classic or Controversial?

The first books I remember reading by myself at home were written by Enid Blyton. Someone gave me ‘The Enchanted Wood’ trilogy for Christmas or a birthday. Now her books are controversial, as some consider them racist. I remember names like ‘Fanny’, ‘Dick’, and ‘Moonface’. I remember the biscuits full of honey which exploded in your mouth, (perhaps an early warning of my sweet tooth!) The tales of faraway lands fuelled my young imagination, though. I was never interested in the Famous Five, oddly, even though I was interested in adventure in other stories. I read the ‘Malory Towers’ books, by Enid Blyton, I think there were several in the series, the main characters a girl called Darrell who goes off to boarding school called (handily!) Malory towers. I read also some of the later books which featured Darrell’s younger sister Felicity. Again, these books were a reflection of the time in which they were written, though for me this was part of the charm.

Roald Dahl – Prolific engaging and inspiring writer or dark and dangerous?

I remember some of the books I read at school too, around the same times as I read lots of Enid Blyton’s books. We read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory in primary four, on which we were to write a story using our imaginations to dream up an amazing factory. Unfortunately I got side-tracked, writing ten A4 jotter pages of rubbish. I think we possibly read George’s Marvellous Medicine too, both books by Roald Dahl. I remember too the following year reading Danny the Champion of the World, (Roald Dahl again!!) and Stig of the Dump (Clive King). I must have loved them to remember them over 20 years later.

I went on to read other Roald Dahl books including The B.F.G and Matilda. I remember feeling sorry for both Sophie, the orphan whose life changes when she meets the BFG, and Matilda, who learns to read long complex books from age of four, while sitting in the library, the only place she feels safe. She is also famous for being able to move objects with her eyes, which she uses to her advantage, both with her dysfunctional family and draconian head teacher Miss Trunchbull. I think it was one of the first books I borrowed from a library. I remember numerous trips to the local library, though I do not remember the titles of what I read, just snippets of books.

Classics versus Contemporary

When I was about 11 or 12 I think, Mum wanted me to start reading classics. It would have been good preparation for high school, and University too. However, what I read, and Mum wanted me to read differed widely. I wanted to read what she considered rubbish, namely The Baby Sitters Club and Sweet Valley High.

Children’s literature has grown exponentially since I was young, thanks to the rise and rise of authors like Jacqueline Wilson, JK Rowling, Stephanie Myers and the likes. It would be fun to know what your memories are of reading as a

child especially, too, or maybe there was some other hobby you excelled in?

(P.S. Stay tuned for part 2 on Wednesday this week which will be live at 6am if I remember to schedule it….)


This post was written in response to last week’s Weekly Challenge from WordPress:

Every superhero has an ‘origin’ story of how they came into being. If applied to myself, How did I begin to be a reader, and eventually a writer.

To have a go yourself, click on the blue link directly above this.(or shift + tab and press space if using screen reader)I’d love to read your story! I do read others posts for hours at a time.

 


 

The stuff of nightmares…

Photo by Michelle Weber.

The bright colours of the playground are at odds with this little girls mood. She shouldn’t know how to think this deeply this young. Weighed down with care, she has few friends. The green creature is the stuff of her nightmares. She knows nothing of Pinocchio, a friendlier creature with a similar length of nose. She should bounce with Tigger, and eat honey with Pooh, but no-one will read her the story.

This little girl used to dream of a better life. What it might feel like to have a mommy and daddy who loved her, read her stories and played with her. Instead, some days she has to scavenge for food. She does her best to hide, not wanting anyone to notice her for fear of what will happen if her momma is in one of her moods. There are no scars on her face or her arms as they would be noticed by others, and then they would know. She is waiting for her momma to come out of the building next to the roundabout. She would rather sit there forever and not go home with her momma, but go home she must. Maybe one day, she will escape the horror, and the pain, but what if someone never notices her?

What if someone does notice the little girls withdrawal, and the heaviness on her heart, and raises the alarm? Maybe then she will find a family who loves her, plays with her, and feeds her home cooked meals. Maybe then she will learn how to dream again, but we will never know.

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I wrote this (very) short story for the Weekly Writing Challenge. I was to write a story based on the picture above. It was my first attempt at a proper story in a very long time! I am sure you can do better! I would love to read it!

 

“Nobody’s child”

Image

“I don’t remember a lot about my childhood: my very earliest memories are of living in a children’s home when I was about 4 or 5 years old.”

I didn’t remember what my favourite book was till I remembered a box of books in a cupboard. Then I had to go raking. I didn’t remember the title; however, soon as I saw it, I remembered the roller-coaster of emotions I felt reading it. Sadness, tears, loss, love, joy, laughter, they were all there. Not like most of the stories out there about abuse, it’s different from those in a way. The abuse is still there, oh my goodness you can’t forget it, but it’s somehow told in a different way. Perhaps I feel this way because I had the privilege of meeting Jon Robinson, the guy who was the little boy at the beginning of the book.

It’s years since I’ve read this book, and yet, I remember details of the story, which I am going to repeat to you now and not regurgitate the summary on the back of the book. I remember meeting him, remember liking him on first sight, I got the best hug, and we had a brilliant chat. He’s so humble, so unassuming, and yet there’s something compelling about him. When I heard he was speaking I jumped at the chance to go, and have never forgotten it. I’m not sure what he’s doing now. I’d like to find out.

Okay… so this is his story as I remember it. He’s in and out of foster-care and children’s homes most of his childhood. His is not a happy one, there is no story of redemption, at least not yet. I remember reading at the start of the book that other children had visitors on birthdays and holiday times, and he did not. He was the one left distraught. This home was okay. There’s another home I remember reading about where he and the other children were only allowed into their bedrooms when the social workers visited, and that was also the only time they could play with the toys. The rest of the time, they were locked in the cellar. At this particular home there was a wee boy, I think his name was Michael? Anyways, he finds out later that this little lad was his brother, so much later that by the time he knows the poor little lad has died.

Jon also ends up in prison, at least once, though I don’t remember what for. A long time down the story, with the support of his future wife, he asks to read, and reads his social work record. This is one of those stories in which, if like me you had a happy childhood, your eyes will open. If like Jon you were in care most of your childhood, you may well identify with it. Whatever your story, I urge you to read this book. I’m off now to re-read this gem of a book. I promise you, if you read it, it will stay with you forever, like only the best told stories do.

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Today’s daily prompt if you’d also ike to write about your favourite book.

The link to Nobody’s child on Amazon if you’d like to buy it:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Nobodys-Child-Stirring-Story-Unwanted/dp/1854246232/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1357410871&sr=1-3