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What or who sparked your love of reading?

April 8, 2013

So what was it that set the young you on your inspired way down that star-spangled road to reading heaven?  In my case, it was my armchair-adventurer father.  Here’s a bit of doggerel which explains how it all began for me … 

I  JOIN THE LIBRARY

It came once a week to the end of our road

At six pm prompt every Friday

A blue and white caravan carefully towed

Manchester Corporation’s Mobile Library

 

So on Fridays, my book-loving, Ulsterman Dad,

Released from the factory noises       

Would put his six books in a carrier bag

And go to make new reading choices

 

Then all weekend long my thrill-seeking Dad

With his books and his tea would retire

By sea to Shanghai or train to Leningrad

And all from his chair by the fire

 

A cool High Plains Drifter, so lean and so true 

An iron-masked prisoner of Zenda

Whilst facing the Hun, the Zulu, the Sioux

His slippered feet on the fender

     

He craved only peace to enjoy a good read

As armchair adventurers do

But the three-year-old me would pester and plead

“Daddy PLEASE, read ME a story, too!”

 

Though engrossed in his reading, ‘twas clear he had heard,

For, on return from his factory endeavour,

He now taught me each evening the written word,

Just to prove his wee daughter quite clever

 

Then, one rainy Friday, for literary leisure

We both went to library heaven

But to sample those wonderful, tax-funded treasures

It turns out, alas, I must be seven

 

“Thiz no way she’s seven” says library lady

“Well, that’ll do me,” explodes Dad

 “Though slow to grow, aye, she may be,

 To ban her from readin’s too bad!”

 

 “Denyin’ her access to books, cos she’s wee

Is unforgivable, prejudiced, unfair

Tho’ undersized for her age, can’t ye see

In her smart little head, she’s all there.”

 

“Tho wee, for her age,” he lied, “she’s bright for a wain,

Cud ye not be more egalitarian?

For many a wee body belies a big brain,”

Says my dad to the red-faced librarian

 

“Tho her legs mebbe short, her interest’s not

“Gi’ her books and her mind’ll grow bigger”

I stood on tiptoe, undeniably a tot,

But I tried my real best to look bigger

 

Incensed readers gathered defensively by us,   

Most of them fathers and mothers,

“What’s all this fuss on the library bus?

T’kid deserves same chance as t’others”

 

“She’s a right to enjoy literature, just as we do

Regardless of *clemmin’ an’ rickets!”

The librarian wilts, midst the hullaballo

And writes me out 2 library tickets

 

Antrim Dad directs me to the junior confines

The corner that’s kids’ reading heaven

“Don’t forget, pet,” he winks and reminds,

“If anyone asks, then yer seven.”

 

The shelves bore every conceivable tome

Of imaginative children’s writing

And, joy, I could now take some of them home

Edward Lear, Eleanor Farjeon, Enid Blyton

 

The lie that secured me early library access  

Was the spark that kindled a flame

Which no corporation Jobsworth could  suppress

And now, at fifty, I still retain

 

The lesson I learned from my Dad’s fierce attack

The day the librarian came a cropper

That whenever bureaucracy’s holding you back

Just speak out, and tell them a whopper!

 

[*clemmin – Mancunian term for starvation]

 

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