Olivia’s reading journey

By Olivia Vigrass

The latest in our reading journeys from the Sheffield Hallam University students taking part in the Ideas into Action initiative.

As a child, I was surrounded by reading in school and out of school. Of course I went through the standard practice of learning how to read when I started primary school like most other children in this country. I was also familiarised with reading at home, as my parents used to read to me before I went to sleep, some of the books including The Little Princess series, those being some of the key books I remember from that long ago.

As I grew older, particularly when I was about 11 or 12, when I started year 7, me and my group of friends all took an interest to reading young adult books and tended to share our thoughts on them. One particular key series that sparked my love of reading was The Hunger Games trilogy, which me and my friends read and then we would anticipate the release of the films and go and see them together multiple times. It seems like in 2012, young adult reading really took off, and I was a huge fan of all the dystopian novels released and publicised around that time. An author that remains strong in my memory of that time was John Green, the book that left the biggest mark on me of his was the teen romance of The Fault in Our Stars. Until I read that, I had never thought a book would inflict so much emotion and make me cry! It is also a nostalgic experience for me, when these authors bring out books now, as I love to read them and it really takes me back to my early teens. In comparing myself with Elsie Brownlee’s reading journey, it is easy to see that our generational differences create very different reading journeys. In comparison to Elsie who grew up in the early 1930s, it is clear that I had more freedom when it came to reading books and so did my friends. Elsie’s journey focuses around the library setting and her love of books that stemmed from there, ‘At about the age of eleven, Elsie became a fervent library user.’ Me and my friends all purchased our books with pocket money, showing that we had a bit of power in buying exactly what we wanted to read.

As I got older and entered High School, I constantly had a book on the go, and I really think my love of reading began to grow even more. When I was 16, I read the Harry Potter books for the first time, which was strange considering that the franchise had been around for so long! I had never read them because I thought they were a bit childish and overhyped but I was completely wrong. Even now, I still find comfort in reading them as they are a great escape from the world around us, especially in times like these. Another popular book series that I deemed as overhyped was the Twilight series, but I read all of these around about when I was 17 and I completely fell in love and they are still some of my favourite books I’ve ever read!

When I was at the point of deciding what I wanted to study at university, I was in no doubt that English Literature would be the one for me and I have never regretted this decision as it has opened so many genres and books to me that I never would have picked up. Some including classics such as Wuthering Heights and gothic novels which I had never even heard of such as The Castle of Otranto and Beloved. I believe that this degree has opened my mind to authors and contexts that I was ignorant of before. It is also so lovely that I can talk to like-minded people about reading and books that I couldn’t do before.

Currently my reading interest is horror novels, particularly by Stephen King. So far I have read Carrie and The Shining, and I am now reading Pet Sematary. I feel like being in lockdown has really re-sparked my love of reading as it is a great escape for me.

When I leave Sheffield Hallam University, I am going to do a masters in Global Media and Culture, as I would love to become a writer for a social media company. Elsie, who I mentioned earlier, had a dream to work in a library. Elsie: ‘I thought, “I’d love to work in a place like this. I’d LOVE to work in a place like this.”’ (2015). Even though libraries are still working today, it is much more accessible to buy books from online, physical copies and e-books alike. As we are both women, it is interesting to see how her father practically chose her job for her, yet I have the choice to do whatever I would like to in the future, ‘Elsie’s father thought further education for girls a waste of time as they were bound to get married’ (2015).  I feel lucky to have a different approach on the life I want to live.