Jennifer Horan is the Network Librarian at Kemnay Academy, Aberdeenshire.
Working in a school library, I am frequently approached by pupils who say, “Do you actually like reading?”, “Don’t you get bored just reading all day?” (we don’t just read all day, but that’s an issue for another time), and “The book was like that when I got it.” These children from an online, fast-paced, forced-to-analyse-the-living-daylights-out-of-dull-texts-at-school generation seem genuinely perplexed as to why anyone would read for pleasure and out of choice.
Many thoughts run through my head when I’m faced with such questions – I love reading, so much that I can’t put it in to words. It certainly doesn’t bore me; I don’t know what it is about reading that I love, I just know that I’ve been hooked on it for as long as I can remember. I think: I read for escapism, to find some happiness when the world around me is awful. I read for entertainment, to find a riveting story that will keep me occupied and engaged, laughing, crying and at the edge of my seat. I read for inclusion, to know that I’m not alone, that others have experienced thoughts, feelings and events that I have and have lived to tell the tale. And this gives me hope, another reason why I read. I read to exercise the little grey cells. Reading uses more imagination than television allows, it’s like a workout for the mind and more favourable than a session at the gym. Reading feeds my soul, it teaches me about the world, lets me experience places I’ve never visited, like Australia, Middle Earth, the moon. It takes me on an adventure.
Being involved in judging these past two years has certainly been just that. I’ve read more in a pressured, short space of time than I thought was humanly possible. I’ve been challenged, reading books I’d never have picked up on my own, persevering with genres and styles that are outside my reading comfort zone. It has been a brilliant introduction to new authors, and has given me great ideas for stock for my school library. And as my judging term comes to a close, it has been an experience I’ll never forget and one that I’m immensely humbled to be part of. I hope the buzz and excitement around awards such as these sparks a love of reading amongst the young, and young-at-heart – you’re never too old (or too young!) to enjoy a good read.
But mostly when I’m asked if I like reading I just say, “Yeah.”