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29 January 2021

The Pleasures of Reading - and a new initiative

The Pleasures of Reading - and new initiative

Being under lockdown for so long, people are having to be creative in finding new sources of pleasure now that shops, gyms, pubs, restaurants and even other peoples’ homes are all out of bounds.  With students and school staff now spending most of their time in front of screens, I have a hope that more people of all ages will rediscover, or indeed discover for the first time, the wonderful thrill of diving into a good book.

Books have really shaped who I am today.  Being brought up in a small Scottish town with parents on a very limited budget, we had to find free ways to entertain ourselves.  One of the highlights of the week was our weekly trip to the library every Thursday night, and the excitement of getting home and sitting with the whole family and enjoying an evening lost in our books.  I loved the library so much that, as a very little girl, the librarian gave me a tour behind the scenes, showing me all of the new books waiting to go on the shelves - still a highlight of my childhood.  Reading allowed me to escape from my small town and explore other countries, other lives and other identities.  It made me challenge the expectation that, despite the very high grades I achieved at school, my destiny lay in finishing my education at 17, remaining in my home town and getting a job as an office junior, which was the expected path for working class girls in my town.

Since then, books have remained a constant.  They have been my escape after challenging days at work, my distraction after breaking up with boyfriends, a cheap form of entertainment when scraping together the money to pay the bills when living alone in my first teaching post, and a comfort when I moved to the South of England knowing no one.  They have challenged, inspired, frustrated and delighted me.

Unfortunately, it seems that many young people haven’t yet realised the joy that can lie between the covers of a book.  Therefore, I am very pleased to announce our new initiative. In the College Reading Room (and what could be a more appropriate place?), we will be setting up a mini-library where students and staff can borrow books donated by students, staff, parents and the local community.  This will provide a way for students to pick up a title which looks intriguing and give it a go.  Some of them will even contain personal notes from the donor, explaining why they have enjoyed that particular book.  We will also be asking staff and students to share their reading suggestions, and we are really hoping to inspire some of our students who aren’t already hooked on books to give reading for pleasure a try.

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