It is World Book Day, and we wanted to celebrate the world of words and, in particular, the books which made a difference to us as children. Previously we have talked about our favourite childhood books – read part one and part two – but now, on this day which is celebrated in many schools around the country, it feels important to remember the books we loved as we grew up.
There are many reasons why we might choose to pick up an old favourite: nostalgia, a love of the original material, a desire to discover new things in something old. The books that we have sat on our bookshelves can be appealing long after we first read them, and we should all revisit them from time to time. They remind us of the person we once were, the changes that have happened since we first read them, or even more simply, remind us why we have always loved reading.
There is a reason that the Harry Potter series of novels appeals to both children and adults. The universal themes presented in the novels connect to both the anxieties of growing up as an outsider, as different to those around you, and wider concerns about good and evil in the world. Re-visiting books like this we will often see something new, or re-interpret moments in a far more complex way than we originally considered, allowing us to appreciate the complexities of the book being read. Books like those written by Jacqueline Wilson and Judy Blume tap into the anxieties and problems that young people face, in a variety of different circumstances. From dealing with puberty (in Hey God, Its Me Margaret by Judy Blume) to the problems faced by children in foster care (Tracy Beaker by Jacqueline Wilson) and facing the death of a friend as a young person (Vicky Angel by Jacqueline Wilson). These books present problems that teenagers face, and allow individuals to work through their own emotional problems through literature.
In our early teenage years we also start to explore literature under our own steam – we start choosing books for ourselves, rather than the books that we got given in infant and junior school reading lessons. We start exploring different genres of literature, and discover the types of literature we like. It was in my pre-teen years that I discovered a love for sci-fi and fantasy fiction, and it was then that I first read books like Eragon by Christopher Paolini, Northern Lights by Phillip Pullman, and The Magicians Guild by Trudi Canavan; all books by authors who I still read today. Furthermore, re-reading these books reminds me of the quality of literature often written for pre-teens and young teenagers.
Reconnecting with books that we identified with in our formative years allows us to remember the emotions and problems that we faced when we first opened the pages. When you are studying English at University it can be easy to get caught up with the big ideas of grand literature, in the themes and concepts about humanity thought about in the classics. It can be very easy to forget about the reasons that we fell in love with reading in the first place. In these books we loved as children and young teenagers we see the problems that we used to struggle with, and how we have grown.