Imagine a time before the PS3, ipods, Nintendos, Playstations, Xboxes, computers, DVD players etc. The most advanced technology was a video player and music came on cassette tapes or vinyl. Television was in colour but there were only 4 channels (6 if you had a good aerial and could pick up RTE) but they weren't on all the time and 'children's programmes' ran for a couple of hours in the afternoon and on a Saturday and Sunday morning.
This was how the world was back when I was letting go of the reins of childhood and dreaming of how fabulously sophisticated I would be once I became a teenager Yep, I honestly believed that turning 13 made you wise and flipped some kind of inner-goddess switch enabling you to cast off the shackles of baby-fat and awkwardness, emerging from a cocoon of bad-hair, clashing clothes choices and tree-climbing to become an Audrey Hepburn-type, complete with perfect skin and supermodel figure. Ha ha, ha ha ha, ha ha ha ha ha. Ahem. Where was I?
Ah, yes - pre-teen me.
Without the distraction of Facebook statuses, Tweeting, gaming, ear-buds blasting noise into your brain 24/7 etc. life was...simpler, quieter. I played with my friends OUTSIDE, did jigsaw puzzles with my granddad learned how to make tea and read dozens and dozens and dozens of books.
Money was pretty scarce in our family and so I relied on the local library to sustain my reading habit and provide me with a constant supply of new authors and books. My Saturday treat was a trip to the library for next week's fix and by the time I hit the age of 11, I had pretty much read my way through the children's section and was expanding my horizons from ponies and fairies to something more...grown-up. One Saturday I picked up a copy of a book called 'Seaward' by an author called Susan Cooper - this wasn't my usual reading material but it looked interesting so I thought I'd give it a go. At home, after dinner, I cracked open the book and, just like that, I fell in love.
That book. Ah, that book. It absorbed me, drew me right in and I was THERE with Cally and West, travelling through a strange landscape of fantastical creatures and scary adventures. It was the first time that I 'felt' a book. Do you know what I mean? That book took my love of creative writing in school and showed me that there was more to it than 'What I Did During My School Holidays'. That book showed me what it meant to really WRITE.
|In the library of St. Louis College|
I am blessed and delighted to be able to go into local schools and chat to the pupils and teachers about books and creative writing - I LOVE IT! - and most of the time I have the pleasure of meeting the pupils in the school library. Some of them are small, some are huge; all of them have wonderfully enthusiastic and dedicated staff who truly love books and want to help the pupils of the school to overcome the fear of literature and writing that sometimes prevails. I'm also lucky to have great local libraries to keep me in reading material during those months when the money is tight but the need to read is overwhelming.
Sadly, lots of town libraries are closing; school libraries are being squeezed and side-lined and even scrapped to be replaced by computer suites. At a time when there's a lot of noise about falling literacy standards and horror stories about children, when asked to bring a book into school to read, coming in with an Argos catalogue because 'that's the only book we have at home', it just stuns me that the powers that be consider the closing of libraries to be sensible. Really?! Technology may have moved on from perfect bound pages but there's still a need for books to be made available to people who want to read them and many libraries are offering eBooks as well as the usual hardback or paperback. Technology is part of our lives and most of us wouldn't like (couldn't?) live without it - I'm not one of those folk who thinks we should all go back to living in caves and wearing animal skins (ewwww!) but the idea that someday, somewhere there might be a child like I was who needs to escape into books but doesn't have the opportunity because some accountant in a fancy office decided that the provision of a library in her small town isn't good use of public money just leaves me cold.
So my message for this post - (and the point that you probably thought I'd never get to! ) is very simple - make use of your library; whether you're in school, university or you're just a reader like me who loves books but doesn't always have the money to buy them. Libraries hold a lifetime of stories about places I will never visit, told by people I will never meet but whose wonderful imaginations give me hours of enjoyment and whose voices will stay with me forever.
Oh, and after many, many years of looking for a copy (it went out of print years ago)...look what I found!