By Archie Harris
Students at Sheffield Hallam University have been exploring our interviews with Sheffield readers and our research. They have each written their own reading journey and a reflection on a book or author mentioned by our original interviewees (click here for more information on these tasks). We hope this has given the students an understanding of the world their grandparents and great-grandparents grew up in. For us, reading the thoughts of people born 70 or so years after our interviewees, in a very different world, have made us look afresh at our material. We’re pleased to publish the work of the students over the next few weeks.
In preparation for writing this blog I took what I saw as the most logical step and phoned my mum up to try and pick her brains as to what she remembers about reading to me as a young child. What followed was five minutes of me scrambling around my room trying to find a pen as she rattled off countless books and series that, at least according to her, I had spent half my childhood with my head buried in. The most prominent of which was a collection of Dr Seuss short stories I used to have read to me over and over every night when I was a toddler. To this day my mother and I can quote those stories and often do to cheer each other up on down days around the house, particularly the classic that is Too Many Daves, a personal favourite of mine as a child that my mother and I still quote around the house to this day. It was Dr Seuss that I believe kickstarted my lifelong adoration of poetry and poetic form as most of his writing has an almost musical rhythmic quality. Another of my great loves as a child was the Mr Men series, owning the whole collection and reading each one over and over until the binding was worn out. I even went as far as to paint myself blue, bandage up and go to World Book Day at school as Mr Bump. Mr Sneeze also stands out in particular as one book that got especially battered as I read it almost constantly as a toddler, turning over from the last page and going straight back to the beginning. My mother passed down her love of reading to me and I grew up with my nose in a book. As I had no siblings to play with the next best thing was to immerse myself in a whole new universe to transport myself away from rainy Derbyshire.
To be honest, as much as I enjoyed personal reading, I was far less infatuated with the assigned reading in primary school, often reading a book as fast as possible to simply get it out of the way so I could get back to the latest Diary of a Wimpy Kid I was probably reading at the time. My grandparents also had a profound effect on me and my reading journey, two or three times a week they would take me to the library whenever they picked me up from school to grab a new book to read. Thirteen years later I now suspect this was to shut seven-year-old me up for an hour or two, which was successful for them and also got me even further interested in reading.
Like most people my age, one of the major literary influences in my early life was the Harry Potter series. I had seen the first couple of films and was instantly engrossed in the fantastical universe J K Rowling had created. This inspired me to pick up all seven books and speed read them before the next film came out to make sure I was up to date, an unfortunate side effect of this was that I had little to no filter between my brain and my mouth as a child and would not hesitate to mention something that happens later in the series to one of my friends that had not yet got around to reading some of the later books. For this I could only apologise. This started a domino effect leading me to binge read many series of books, although somehow missing out on Lord of The Rings until I was much older. The Percy Jackson series hugely impacted me early in secondary school, cultivating a fascination with Greek mythology in tandem with my ever-growing love of literature. This led to an intense yet brief obsession with all things mythological which was reignited for me at university as we began to study The Odyssey and the heavily explored mythos surrounding it.
In secondary school I was indeed that one kid that genuinely enjoyed Shakespeare and poetry. My enjoyment of Shakespeare was more of an appreciation of his immeasurable impact on the English language and culture, with his stories being told and adapted in many forms of media to this day. However, my love for poetry was, and is, very palpable and real. Almost daily you will find me writing some nonsensical poetry on my laptop to be shoved into my folder and never read again. The release of emotion from writing and reading poetry, for me, is unmatched and I will continue to produce poetry for the rest of my life. I have my year 10 English teacher to thank for this, as she pushed me to continue to pursue poetry beyond what we had been studying in class.
Most of my reading outside of university is news articles nowadays as I try and keep up to date on the world and on things I am interested in. This led to me writing a few articles for football magazines over the past few years as when I feel so passionately about something the words come easily. Because of how much I enjoyed the process of writing and editing these articles, I am looking into perhaps pursuing journalism or something similar as a vocation or as a postgraduate degree.
Regrettably, I have neglected to use a library in years now, favouring reading online or picking up books from the charity shop. This has also coincided with me having to read more for school and university work, so I feel I have less time and motivation to read for pleasure. Hopefully after my degree is finished I can relax and spend more time browsing the library and reading for pleasure in the sun like I had done so much as a child.