Tuesday, January 12, 2010

How I came to love reading...

As I strolled along the children's book section, I found the shelves lacking of good books. I'm not refering to the writing, rather, I wish there is a broader range of content that are more thought evoking for the young developing minds. The hot and popular range from vampires, to magical adventures of sort are fine, except it isnt exactly character moulding and in touch with reality.

I miss the classics. Ocassionally, I still derive much joy glancing through some of my childhood favs.

If someone is to ask me what was my first favorite book, unhesitatingly my reply would be "Sing to the Dawn". Though my favorite children author remained unreservedly to date as Enid Blyton.

If someone asked me what was the first book I read (that I didnt quite like), it would be "The Ugly Duckling". Ghees I hated that book. The title seared into my head because my brothers had refused to explain the words to me, instead demanding that I should underline the unknown words and to look up the dictionary on my own. Damn, reading became such a chore that I decided I had rather guess the meaning than the hassle of checking up the dic. That habit ultimately ended up as a useful "ability" as I eventually discovered in high school, since my English papers always required me to guess the meaning of the word in passages and comprehension under the vocab section. Ha!

"Sing to Dawn" wasnt a book someone picked for me. Instead, it was a gem I had found nestled amongst the scores of books kept inside the neglected storeroom. At my old home where I grew up in, my mum used to pack all the unused books into the storeroom. I remembered there were like numerous elongated shelves built from floor to ceiling, filled with tightly packed books. There must be over hundred books in that tiny dark room which became my favourite secret hideout. It was truly my magical store. Unknown to rest of my family, one of my treasured past time then was to grab a stool (since I was too short to reach books at the upper shelves) and browse through all the books laid forgotten in the dusty shelves.

Due to our vast age difference, my brothers had many great books. From the hard cover novels, to literature books and encyclopedia. By 8yr, my brain was starving for something to occupy my mind with. Since I didnt have a playmate near my age and my mum had this policy that "girls" should stay at home at all times, those books were ultimately my saviour for years to come.

My mum didnt buy me alot of story books. She would if I asked for it specifically or when they are recommended by school. When one is young and you understand your family financial status, you kinda instinctively know not to ask for "non essential" things, so I was more than happy to raid my brother's collection. That was how I found "Sing to the Dawn" and begun my proactive foray into the world of books.

The books I was exposed to were probably my brother's textbooks. Though some were really good adventure friction.

I cherish his Egyptian encyclopedia with all the pictures and narration from the mythical gods to the tragic story of Cleopatra the most. Which probably explain my ongoing fixation with the legends and stories that evolved round the mummies and treasures displays.

Following next, I bulldozed my way through the William Shakespeare's novels patiently awaiting its next reader. Much that I didnt quite understand some of the words written in old English/ Latin used in Macbeth and The merchant of Venice but the content was nevertheless thoroughly enjoyable. I truly admired the idea of "a pound of flesh" that it made quite an impression in my young head. Subsequently in later years, I went on to finish the rest of titles for leisure and reread those I had pored over as a kid...much to the skepticism of my friends who couldnt fathom what is so interesting about those books. Their loss, not mine.

At 10, I proceeded to conquer my brother's collection of Charles Dickens and Jane Austen collection, primarily A Tale of two cities, Oliver Twist, Christmas Carol, and Sense & Sensibility. In the same year and the following, I went on to Animal Farm and was incredibly sad when the book ended.

It was at the same year that I borrowed Enid Blyton's collection on The Faraway Tree, Secret Seven, Famous Five, Wishing Chair, and Naughtiest Girl series, not to forget my fav Hardy Boys series and those too became my all time prized reads.

As I look through the children book section of today, and compared to what I was reading when I was young, I am glad I grew up with my brother's rich literary collection instead of these fantasy books. I remembered those books more vividly than those children titles like Snow White, Sleeping beauty etc.

Frankly, I have always hated those princesses books. In fact, the 2 most significant characters whom I had despised and disliked since I was a kid had always been Snow White and especially Little Mermaid. Till this day, I still didnt like these 2 famous wimpy characters. When I was young, I didnt like the mermaid's attitude but even more so that I didnt understand how she could willingly abandon her family for a guy whom she didnt know. Somehow, I just knew it was a stupid idea and being so flaky to blindly wish the prince would know who she is esp when she couldnt talk. Christ, I hated bimbo even when i was kid....and there truly is not an ounce of syrupy romantic gene in my bones... Come to think of it, I had never ever wanted to be a princess even as a little girl. I much rather go on an adventure than to live the mushy lines of "live happily ever after" Eeeweee...

I think reading books beyond my years had a significant impact on me. I drew many inspirations from it. Most of all, it shaped my viewpoint in life, my objectivity and frame of mind dealing with events and decisions in my life, including people around me. Indirectly, it influenced the way I behave, and the way I recognise people for who they are as depicted in the books. Just like how "Sing to the Dawn" had given me an insight about sibling bond, and about going after what your heart desires (basically modern go getter syndrome) that a girl is equally competent as a guy, which was reinforced by my all-girls school environment. Which is probably why I hope my nephews would read as widely as they can at an early age and benefit from reading as I had the fortune to. Then again, everyone is different.

I wonder how many people realise reading is not about enhancing the language skill. It is about the kid absorbing and digesting the content and the important message that comes through from the words as the author intended.

There isnt an age limit to how far a kid can read. I am glad there was no one to ever tell me I couldnt read a book because it was too deep for me to comprehend. Most of all, I am glad my partner loved books as much as I do. By the time our years of our unsettled living come to an end, I look forward to having my own reading room to host the infinitely large amount of beloved books that I had chalked up over the years.


dreams come true said...

Haha, seems like we both had similar taste in reading when we were kids! I've read all the books you've mentioned: Enid Blyton's collection on The Faraway Tree, Secret Seven, Famous Five, Wishing Chair, and Naughtiest Girl series, not to forget my fav Hardy Boys series. I loved Nancy Drew too, and I used to read my Shakespeare textbook over & over again!

Nomad said...

Ah my fellow bookworm!!!!

Yes yes Nancy drew! That was good too though I cannot say Ilike the flick version... The books that kids read today, sometimes I wonder if its really worth all that money for the lack of content...Talented writers like Enid Blyton and Ronald Dahl etc are such a praiseworthy writers which I think modern era is sorely lacking of the likes of such. Such a pity...some say, give another decade and English medium will gone to waste with all the modern day communication methods that are changing the way we speak, write With all the phonetic way of speaking, soon people forget the correct spelling , how scary...