I have the distinct sensation of always reading as a child. Other memories are there of course, but one of those key impressions that my childhood gave was of turning pages in bed after dark, hiding a book under my desk, roaming the shelves in the libraries and delving into fictional lands in many a spare moment.
Yet lately I feel like I have read next to nothing.
Last year I read about 13 books, which at a little over one a month isn’t terrible given that most of my days were spent at home chasing my three little ones- but I know that it could be better. If I’m honest with myself, I know the times that I reached for my phone or social media and listened to those voices instead of digging into fiction (my favourite) or learning something new in one of the many non fiction books I have on my wishlist. In the past few years since finishing my degree I’ve done much more ‘reading’ of the Internet than I have pages of a book.
Once the relentless pace of required reading for university finished, I expected to dive into those books I hadn’t been able to squeeze in between the weekly novels, pages of poetry and the dramas on our list. Doorstops of books had to be flown through before seminar discussions and I longed for the time to read books of my choice, for a reprieve from the incessant pace and some freedom that graduation would surely bring. Only graduation didn’t necessarily afford those luxuries with two little ones at home full time, a husband working away and a move down the country on the horizon. The escape that fiction had always represented evaded me. Or rather I chose to spend my time in ways that seemed more productive and worthwhile, or to slip into the easy trap of social media.
I unwittingly and unknowingly found myself in a reading slump, unknowingly listening to voices telling me that couldn’t afford to read fiction any more because it wasn’t the most productive possible use of my time. Somewhere along to the way I forgot the true role of reading in my life and its importance not for productivity or getting anything done, but as a way to truly stop, rest and refresh. A little pause, a chance to explore new places, ideas, people. Not reading to check off pages or to learn anything specific, but reading to open up worlds, to fill me up with stories so that I could pour better into my own story. Slowly I started to realise, notice that I wasn’t reading much and the effect that was having. I started reaching for the familiar comfort of familiar characters, friends made in children’s classics that I hadn’t read for years.
Immersing myself in these familiar worlds not only let me see those stories afresh but reminded me of the power of the imagination. The staying power, the magic and the wonder of them was never lost, as some things are when you come back to them as an adult. They allowed me to sink back into exercising my own imagination without having to spend a lot of mental energy deciding what to read and which characters to invest my time in. Recently I’ve been reading a mixture of re-reads and new books, which has been a really lovely balance having almost exclusively read new books for most of my life. The books I am re-reading are those that really matter. They’re ones I kept on my bookshelf, moved around four times in five years, knew that I would want to share with my little ones when they’re able to read them. These books have staying power, they are impactful and meaningful, rich and deep and yet so charmingly friendly to open up and explore.
I’ve been re-setting my habits for more reading, easier reading choices lately. Deleting social media apps from my phone has made picking up those pages that bit easier, scattering books about the house and having multiple books on the go at once, having always been a one-read kind of person.
I thought I would choose a book to write about each month here on the blog, share with you why it’s important to me, why it has had such lasting power, and what makes it a ‘classic’ in my eyes. But then I realised it would be much more fun to re-read and share the experience with fellow booklovers. When I stop and think about the books I love the most, a lot of them are ones I’ve discussed with others, shared and dug deeper into, whether at university, with friends, at home or in the school classroom.
So, I’ve set up a group called the Always Reading Club.The name, of course is both a nod to Harry Potter and the expression of the desire to have books be a part of our everyday. To be always reading, with something always open, however slowly we make our way through those pages. It is for booklovers, those who haven’t read in years and those who don’t know where to start. It’s going to be very relaxed and grace-filled, since we all have enough ‘should’s in our life already. It’s going to be a fun place for bookish chats and for that shared reading experience. We aim to read one fiction book a month (with lots of grace and no guilt here!). You get to vote on what we read, from classics to contemporary fiction. (I know all my photos are of children’s literature but that’s just where I’ve been hanging out a lot!)We will mostly chat together in our facebook group, so sign up here to get involved!
So are you in? The plan is to keep it simple- this is not another thing to feel guilty about, it’s not a goal to hit or anything like that, just a way that we can enjoy reading together. If it’s been years since you’ve approached a book or just a few minutes, I know we can join in our love of books in the Always Reading Club to weave our own lives with stories.