By Fiza Rashid
Our latest Ideas into Action guest post, from Sheffield Hallam student Fiza Rashid.
I have lived in Sheffield all my life. I attended primary, secondary school and sixth form in Sheffield. I am now in my second year of studying English Literature at Sheffield Hallam.
From a very early age, my dad would take me and my siblings to our local library in Firth Park every weekend. Here I became obsessed with Roald Dahl’s books, especially Matilda. I saw myself in her and I started to identify with her. I am 19 years old now and even now, when watching the film with my 4 year old sister, I feel the same sense of comfort I had back then when I read it for the first time. A lot of interviewees on the Reading Sheffield site talk about their love for The Famous Five series but to be honest, I found them quite boring.
I really loved Jacqueline Wilson’s books. Lizzie Zipmouth was another fictional character I identified with; it’s about a young girl who struggles to settle into her new home. Lizzie Zipmouth refuses to speak to anyone and as someone who has struggled with selective mutism throughout primary and secondary school, it was comforting to see that reflected in a children’s story.
I also remember my mum had these children’s story books in our native language that she would read to us because I couldn’t quite read the written script back then even though I could fluently speak it.
Books were insanely expensive back then (and still are) so I never really had any books of my own as a child but now that I’m earning a bit of money, I can afford to buy them to keep and reread to my heart’s content. I mostly buy second hand books because I love to see the notes other people have written inside. I dislike reading eBooks; I don’t know why but I find it really difficult to read using electronic devices.
When I was a child, I read Horrible Histories and Horrible Science a lot. I have always loved history and science; I find those subjects very fascinating. At my primary school, they always had Goosebumps books on the shelves in class and they were terrifying to me back then but I absolutely loved them. My cousins and even my uncle loved them and we all agree that Welcome to Dead House is the best book out of the series. I read a lot of dystopian fiction in secondary school. I was obsessed with that genre, but I’m older now and I find the fixation with dystopia in popular culture very off-putting. Why would I want to read about a post-apocalyptic world when for my country, the world ended in 1608?*
However, I did study Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro for my A-Levels which is a dystopian sci-fi novel but I really enjoyed it and it will haunt me forever.
I remember being very excited about the scholastic book fair each year and one of the most memorable books I’ve gotten from there was Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl. I first read it when I was 11 which was around the age she was when she started her diary. I think her diary is relevant during this pandemic. I don’t want to compare her experiences to ours because it is extremely different but her words express feelings of isolation and longing that so many of us have felt during lockdown.
My siblings and I also read the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series. These were also books we had gotten from the scholastic book fair. It was about a teen boy’s life written in the form of a diary (or journal because he specifically told his mother not to buy one that said ‘diary’ on it but she did anyway) with silly illustrations which was very funny and relatable.
A Series of Unfortunate Events was another series that defined my childhood. I got up to the fourth novel but I stopped because the library at my secondary school didn’t have the fifth book and I refused to skip ahead and not read them in order. I hope one day I’m able to finish the entire series.
I stopped reading as many books when I started sixth form. The jump from GCSEs to A-Levels was huge and I had no idea how to cope with the workload. Our education system’s destruction, intentional or not, of a person’s natural desire to read seems to me like an act of violence. My child-like love and desire for reading diminished; it just didn’t bring me joy anymore. I feel like as we grow up, reading is framed as elitist or only supposed to be done when we absolutely need to. Sometimes I feel guilty reading for pleasure because there is always something I should be reading for my essays.
I am trying to take up reading as a hobby again and one of the ways I am doing this is by reading with people. I discuss books with my friends over Facetime and sometimes I even read to them. They keep me accountable and they make it enjoyable. I believe community is essential to all learning which is also the reason I chose this project.
I also set goals for myself each year. Last year in 2020 I set myself the target of 50 books and I surprisingly exceeded that goal reading 59 books (although I feel like this was only achievable since the country was under lockdown because of Covid-19 and I wasn’t worrying about studying or my part time job anymore). My favourites from last year were On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong and Circe by Madeline Miller. This year I plan to read 60 books. I’ve read 14 books so far and hopefully I achieve, or even surpass, my goal.
Note: All images are the copyright of Fiza Rashid.
Dahl, R. (2003). Matilda. United Kingdom: Penguin Books Limited.
Deary, T., & Hepplewhite, P. (1993-2013). Horrible Histories. London: Scholastic Corporation.
Frank, A. (2007). The Diary of a Young Girl (Pressler, M., & Massotty, S, Trans). London: Penguin.
Ishiguro, K. (2006). Never Let Me Go. London: Faber
Kinney, J. (2007). Diary of a Wimpy Kid. New York: Amulet Books.
Miller, M. (2018). Circe: A Novel. New York: Little, Brown and Company.
Snicket, Lemony. (1999-2006). A Series of Unfortunate Events. New York: HarperCollins.
Stine, R. (1992). Welcome to Dead House. New York: Scholastic.
Vuong, O. (2019). On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous. London: Penguin Group
Wilson, J. (2009). Lizzie Zipmouth. London: Young Corgi.
* This refers to the colonisation of South Asia. 1608 was when the British first arrived in India.