By Lauren Hurst
Now it’s the turn of Sheffield Hallam University student Lauren Hurst to write her reading journey for us.
My mum always provided me with lots of books from an early age. She would read to me and my brother every night before bed and always encouraged us to join in and read to her aloud. Every birthday or Christmas she gave me at least a couple of books to encourage me to keep reading. We also had lots of books that were hers when she was young, such as an extensive collection of Ladybird books and a very tattered illustrated copy of The Magic Finger which I remember fondly. Thus, growing up, we had a library full of books, new and old, so that we always had plenty of things to read and inspire our imaginations.
Upon asking her of her reasoning for this encouragement, my mum told me that she thought reading was an integral part of my education and development, and that it would help me in my future. I feel very fortunate to have been brought up in this way, particularly after learning from others’ blogs that this was not the experience of many fellow readers in past generations, whose parents did not read to them or take them to the library. For me, these experiences were a key bonding time between me and my mum.
On car journeys we would always listen to audiobooks. The glovebox of my mother’s car always kept a collection of children’s stories on cassette tapes. I have lived in Sheffield all my life and, from around the age of two, my mother regularly took me and my brother to our local library at Greenhill where we held special membership cards. We were free to roam the children’s section which was sizable and nearly always free of other children. Here I read lots of Jacqueline Wilson books from which I learned a lot about topics that were not normally commented on in children’s literature, such as eating disorders and divorce. Later, I graduated to the adult section which was four times the size, although perhaps prematurely as I did not enjoy the experience of the library as I had before; the space was less colourful and didn’t feel as welcoming.
In primary school we had a system in which our reading was recorded in reading logs, this included every session of reading we did, reading to teachers’ assistants during school time and to our parents at home. We could pick the books we read from allocated shelves in the school library, though I never had much interest in any of the books there. Having to choose from this selection and thus spending all my reading time on books I didn’t enjoy prevented me from reading the books that I used to pick out at my local library. This did create for me a somewhat negative experience with reading. At this age I also spent a lot of time at my grandparents’ house and even lived there for a while and, whilst they had their own bookcase and could have read to us from the books they had, my grandad chose to make up his own stories. He was very inventive and came up with some very strange tales to tell me and my brother.
As I got older, I procured an affinity for poems; the first time I knew I loved poetry was after being read The Highwayman by Alfred Noyes in school. I remember thinking I had never heard anything like it. I loved The Highwayman: the way it sounded, the way it flowed, the imagery it used and the way it was darker than anything I had been able to read before.
In secondary school I stopped reading as many books as it was not conventional amongst my peers to read in one’s spare time. However, I always found the time to read a few young adult novels in the summer holidays and, at the age of fourteen, I took up reading as a hobby again. I had a hard time in school and reading was great escapism for me. After looking at the other blogs on Reading Sheffield where some readers have described growing up without the ease of access to books that I was fortunate enough to have, I regret having pushed my love for reading aside.
English literature was my favourite subject in school and unlike my friends I enjoyed reading the set texts, particularly Romeo and Juliet. I enjoyed learning about the context of the literature and looking closely at the meanings of the texts. Whilst studying English literature at A-level, I was surrounded by others with the same interests as well as enthusiastic teachers, and I found a whole new passion for literature. This was the first time I could share my like for reading with others. My A-level teachers introduced me to many new books such as Movern Callar by Alan Warner and The Secret History by Donna Tartt which really helped further my interest in reading outside of school. Since beginning my A-levels at age sixteen, I have enjoyed scouring second-hand bookshops and building my own personal library of vintage and preloved books. Some novels that really inspired me were Lolita and A Clockwork Orange; I was immersed in these writing styles and intrigued by the taboo subjects. Now my favourites are Sylvia Plath and Virginia Woolf, who inspire me to write my own private poetry.