Give her a book: reading changed my life

So much of what is good in my life I owe to books. Girl with personal blog reads books. Not a huge revelation really. I don’t have a cat, though! Got you there! My husband owns more books that I do. My best friend works in publishing. My book club girls are my gin-drinking buddies. Books lead me to what I truly love.

I remember when I learned to read ‘on the inside’, as my mum put it. Not having to be read to and not having to read aloud changed everything. I could read anytime, anywhere. Even when Coronation Street is on! Around that time, I would have been into Enid Blyton and Roald Dahl. The Worst Witch and Charlotte’s Web. When I was little and it was a ‘mum’ Saturday I would get something new to read in town. As a treat, I would go to James Thins but usually, I went to the library.

I seem to be attached to Dundee’s Central Library with some kind of life elastic. As I got older I could go by myself. I could get through dozens of Point Horror and Point Romance titles during six weeks of summer.

My first job was also in Central Library. When I was almost 15 I went to work with the family who ran the café there, The Weavers. It was a bit of a Dundee institution which is sadly closed now. The cheese toasties and raspberry milkshakes were the stuff of legends.

These days I work in an office in the same library. The social enterprise I work for is based there. Every day I get to go behind the scenes to the book stacks – it’s tempting to get lost in there for a few hours let me tell you!

Books are where I always go to get lost for a while. That miracle of looking at words on a page and them conjuring people and places, conversations and challenges, the beautiful and the grotesque. You are holding a bound set of pages; you are entering a different realm.

Reading showed the world in different lights. It transported me from a flat in Dundee to wherever I wanted to go. It took me from being an awkward kid to a pioneer of new lands, a soldier in battle, a princess of a different age. Reading awakened something in me. It showed possibilities beyond my own limited sphere and it presented an amazing world for a little girl looking for an adventure.

Of course, what I really enjoyed reading, was what I could relate to. Growing into a teenager can be a lonely time and that’s when reading really comes into its own. Fiction will tell you honestly what people in real life never do. What the characters are thinking and feeling. It describes the internal monologues that can consume us. Reading helped me make sense of emotions and relationships. It helped me develop what Americans tend to call, a high EQ.

Reading has also helped me with the successes I have had in life. I express myself better because I read. I write better because I read. I got good grades at school because I read. I understand the world around me and have empathy for others in it because I read.

In a previous post, I described myself as a 14-year old who had yet to find her strengths. It only occurred to me to go looking because of books. If you want to change a girl’s life, show her the world and set her on her own path, give her a book.

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