by Vashti Hardy, author of Brightstorm
What I love most about reading, and the thing that drives me to create fictional worlds, is that the landscape of reading is a place for all – it’s not just for the wealthy or the well-travelled, there’s no entrance fee other than a trip to the library or the price of a book. A reading adventure is open to everyone. Through reading we have the chance to travel to infinite worlds, inhabit infinite characters, and have infinite adventures, and that’s a truly magical thought.
I often think about my own reading journey and the steps that let me access the many reading adventures I’ve experienced. There were three pivotal moments in my childhood which stand out and I wonder what my life as a writer and reader would look like if one of these stages had been more difficult or had been overlooked.
The first was the moment I knew I could decode the letters on the page. The book wasn’t the most inspiring – it was one of the ‘Kathy and Mark’ little books. I remember looking at the words and making the connection between marks and meaning. I read a page aloud to myself following it carefully with my finger: ‘Kathy and Mark go for a swim’ or something like that. I can only describe it as feeling a physical spark ignite inside. Four-year-old me wasn’t sure what it meant, but I’d discovered a key – and that key meant adventure.
Fast forward a few years and my teacher was reading the whole class Rebecca’s World by Terry Nation. I can still see the pink fog and the shimmering glass of Glister Palace in the amazing world Nation created. The pictures I saw in my imagination were forever imprinted. It was the book that made me both a reader and a writer – the seed that buried deep inside and demanded to grow. This was the stage when the walls of my 7-year-old universe completely disappeared and I realised that there were no boundaries to imagination – through stories I could go anywhere. We didn’t have much money growing up and holidays were something the wealthy kids in school did, so to discover I could adventure somewhere as amazing as the planet of Rebecca’s World remains one of the most empowering moments of my life.
Jump to secondary school, and somewhere along the journey I’ve lost my bookish sense of adventure. Whilst I held some appreciation for the books on the curriculum, they just weren’t exciting me. That was until my English teacher, Mr Dunham, brought in a box of books and left them on his desk. He said, “These are books from home which I think are pretty good. If you want to borrow one to read for fun, be my guest.” So there it was: freedom to choose coupled with personal recommendation. I didn’t have to so I wanted to. I found some great reads in that box!
So what if any of these stages are missed? We stifle our ability to grow our imaginations through this unique way of adventuring in our minds. Frodo stays in his hobbit hole and he never gets to experience adventure; he never makes a difference. Through reading we learn to question and break down barriers, acquiring skills that translate to all walks of life. Adventures through reading offer the opportunity of being the greatest equaliser. For the children for whom the real world holds little hope or ‘real’ adventure, the landscape of books holds infinite possibilities on the most even playing field. Enter the crucial role of libraries, librarians, teachers, parents, carers, booksellers, book bloggers, and authors. Through reading we can all be explorers and learn to be the hero of our own lives, and that is surely the greatest adventure.
Brightstorm is published on 1 March by Scholastic.
This is a guest post by Vashti Hardy. The views expressed do not necessarily represent the FCBG.