For most book worms (and book bloggers) when it comes to your love of reading, it began at a young age. There are many messages and posts online where people share the books that got them into reading. But what if you had a bad experience with books? What if you were reluctant to read as a child and grew up into an adult who dislikes or dreads reading books? Do some people really dislike or fear reading for life? Or could someone who used to dislike books become a bookworm given the right circumstances?
A shocking truth
I have a confession to make and that is that when I was younger…I would dread reading books! Yes, I know it sounds strange, given how many books I like to read now, but back when I was young I never really enjoyed reading all that much. As a child I used to enjoy reading story books with my Mum, looking at all the pictures and reading the large text. Books like Brambley Hedge and Beatrix Potter (or indeed some Ladybird books) were my favourites as I used to enjoy just staring at the pictures for ages. Although I enjoyed the stories, and sometimes glanced at the text, it was the pictures that I’d stare at for ages, and if a book didn’t have pictures, I just wasn’t interested.
As I went through primary school reading became more important and by the age of seven, the teachers started giving us lots of quiet reading time. My teacher at the time presented the class with a box of books and we were supposed to take one book from it and read. We could pick which book we wanted from the box but there was a catch. We could only read the book that was colour-coded to our reading ability. Each book had a little sticker on the spine, and although all of the interesting or fun looking books had colourful stickers like blue, red and yellow, I was stuck with boring grey, and the books in the grey pile, looked as dull as their stickers.
Grey books were some of the easiest to read, with green being the easiest. Everybody knew that this really meant that the green and grey stickered books were for those who could not read well. Until then I had been quite good at everything at school, I was smart, I usually did well in all classroom activities and mini tests, but the seven year old me started to feel bad, because if I had to read grey stickered books, then I clearly wasn’t that clever, was I?
Almost everyone in class were reading books that were in a higher category to me, including all of my friends. In fact the only grey and green readers were those who were falling behind at school or who never seemed to grasp basic reading, or even writing (which I now realise was probably dyslexia – I don’ot know if anyone actually got help with that back then). I didn’t want to be reading grey books but I had no choice, so I walked up to the box of books and saw that only two were there, they both seemed so boring to me, boring covers and the the blurb on the back seemed boring too. I wasn’t going to enjoy this.
Frustration over words
As well as reading time once a week where we had to read one of the colour coded books (not all in one session of course), small groups of us would go off to the library to have one-on-one sessions with classroom assistants, or parents, who had come in to help. I relished getting out of the classroom, I liked the library. It was quiet and smelled nice (this was probably the start of my love of that book smell) and so when the teacher said it was my turn to go, I picked up my book and trotted off down the hall with a smile on my face.
The book I had been trying to read for a while now was just so boring, I never actually bothered to really read it. I had tried at first, more than once, but I just couldn’t get into it, and the more I tried the more upset it made me. Something about the words just didn’t go in, and I hated being stuck with it. The only other grey-coded book in the box seemed even more boring than mine, but I knew that someone in the class must have a more interesting book, another grey-coded one, so I was waiting for the time when they were done with their book, so I could quickly swap mine with their more interesting one. The whole ‘reading time’ in class, I’d spent pretending to read, while secretly keeping a look out on the book box. There weren’t any illustrations inside the book, so I kept darting my eyes from the bland text, to the box and to the teacher to make sure she didn’t see me. Nobody had swapped their book into the box yet, so I took the boring book in my hands down to the library, and hoped that maybe the nice lady there could help me to read it. To understand what I was reading and maybe if she helped me, I might actually enjoy it.
Help or hindrance?
I sat down and opened the book at the begining and she told me to read it aloud to her. There were a few other kids from my class doing the same with their helpers, I felt immediately awkward (I was pretty shy) but started reading aloud to her anyway. At first it was easy to read, the words were easy to read, although I had no real idea what was going on with the story, I hadn’t really paid attention to it. It still seemed so very boring. Where were all the pictures and illustrations inside, like those in my favourite books? I kept on reading, slowly but easily, and then came a moment, a simple little thing, that would shape my life for years to come.
I got stuck. I was reading aloud, and then I came to a difficult word, a word I couldn’t understand or even pronounce. I froze. It was a word with lots of letters in it, and a combination that didn’t make sense to me. In hindsight it was probably a word like ‘beautiful’ or something similar where the pronounciation is not the same as it’s spelled), which is why it was so hard for my brain to comprehend. I initially tried to work out the word, but something in my brain just didn’t understand it and I desperately wanted the woman to help me by telling me the word, or at least the first part of pronounciation. I looked up at her, she seemed so tall compared to me, but I didn’t utter a sound I just stared. She just told me to read the word aloud. I looked at it and said I can’t. She said I could, and repeated herself again, and again.
Of course she was just trying to help, to get a child to continue reading aloud to practice. She was being nice, doing what she’d been asked. She wanted me to try and say the word, to start pronouncing it myself, to show me that I could work it out if I really looked at the letters. But seven year old me, didn’t understand. Seven year old me wasn’t able to speak. Seven year old me felt stupid, frustrated and upset. I felt stupid because I couldn’t say the word, and I knew that everyone else could. I could hear the other kids in the library, reading aloud to their helpers, they were all reading words with confidence, at a reasonable pace and without problems. But stupid me couldn’t do it, I couldn’t say the word, because I didn’t understand how to say it and I knew if I guessed I’d get it wrong. And I didn’t want to get it wrong. I already felt stupid and I didn’t want everyone else to think I was stupid too.
My cheeks burned as they turned a deep red, and I started to get tears in my eyes. But the woman kept sighing and saying “Just try!”. But I didn’t try, instead I clammed up and shut down because I didn’t want to look stupid in front of the others. In the end, the session was over, marking the end of the school day, and I left the library having never learned how to say the word. I felt like an idiot, I was holding in tears I would shed on the way home. I got back to the classroom and stuffed that annoying grey book angrily into the box, I never wanted to see that book again! And I left school, crying tears on the way home with the knowledge that I clearly was stupid, because I was bad at reading!
Behind and slow
My reading did improve as I grew older, but for a long time, I never felt like reading books. By the time I was old enough for what we call middle grade fiction or older children’s (ages roughly 9-12), I spent time imagining my own stories rather than reading. When it came to reading time in school we were now being asked to bring our own storybooks, but the books available on the shelf of my new classroom were there in case you’d forgotten, and I always seemed to ‘forget’. The books were aimed for a slightly younger age group and had lots of pictures in them. I enjoyed reading those! They were mostly picture books about various time periods like the Victorians, the Romans, the Greeks, and I spent most of my classroom’s reading time just staring at the pictures and photographs of various furniture, tools and structures. Re-reading these picture books again and again.
At home the only book I paid any attention to was a dinosaur one, and only because there were lots of illustrations, diagrams, maps, etc. I never bothered to read about the dinosaurs themselves, just cooed over the images and the little boxes around the pictures that contained a sentence or two of text (which is all I could be bothered to read). When I did go on a shopping trip with my friend from school one day (and her family) they took us to a book shop because my friend was an avid and very fast reader. I always felt awkward with how slowly I could read compared to her, but when there was an offer to get me a book too, I suddenly wanted to read. There were so many books featuring animals on the front, stories about animal characters and I really wanted to read them. But when I got home, that book joined some others I’d gotten as gifts, gathering dust on the shelves in my bedroom. There was just something about those books, all words and no pictures, that somehow made me feel like I just didn’t, or couldn’t read them.
A flawed thinking
For years I thought I didn’t like reading for fun (reading in school was a chore but had to be done) and when I did try it again, in secondary school, the only books I really got along with and enjoyed were simpler and shorter YA books. I found I was able to face reading a book, but only a short one of less than 200 pages, but it would still take me months to read rather than days or week. I took to reading non-fiction more easily, somehow the idea that something wasn’t a story, made reading easier, but it still wasn’t something I chose to do a lot at home and rather than reading books from start to finish I’d dip in and out of certain parts. I mainly resevered reading for school time or during travel.
As I finished school and was presented with my grades, I was amazed that I got an A in GCSE English Literature! I was spoon-fed the answers though , and the books we took into the exams with us were heavily annotated, so I didn’t think much of my result. I still had a reluctance to pick up a reading book, always choosing some other activity before reading. And I knew my reading speed was slow, at least slower than a lot of people. Yet here I am so many years since, and I now love reading, and blog about it too! So what changed? How did I manage to go from someone who was reluctant (and maybe feared) turning the pages, to someone who sits for hours on end reading huge novels?
-Find out how in part two of this two-part post here
Have you always enjoyed reading from a young age? Have you or anyone you know ever struggled with their reading? Do you know any reluctant readers? Let me know what you think in the comments below 🙂
This is so interesting and I’ll be looking out for Wednesday’s post! It’s a shame some bad experiences it you off reading for a long time but glad you’ve found happiness in it now!
I was a huge reader as a kid, I raced through my books and would read all my sister’s books too! My daughter finds it such a chore though, she has so many books yet rarely chooses to read on and hardly ever sees one through to the end! She’s a good reader too, it just doesn’t interest her! I try to encourage rather than force her but it makes me sad she doesn’t seem to get any enjoyment from it!
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Thank you so much! ❤ 🙂 Bad experiences can definitely put people off, but I'm glad I'm no longer reluctant like I used to be 🙂 That's such a shame that your daughter doesn't enjoy reading all that much. Could there be a reason other than disinterest in why she doesn't want to read? Or maybe she's much more focused on some other activities that keep her attention more? I know sometimes it's just kids these days don't feel like reading when there's so many other things they could be doing, but I do wonder if maybe she might find a book interesting if it's about some activity she loves.
Thank you so much for visiting and commenting 🙂 🙂
Yeah if she gets a book about Fortnite or Minecraft, her favourite Xbox games then she’s happy to read them 😂 there are a few others she likes and will read but the rest she asks for then they just sit on her shelf unread! I think it’s definitely a case of too much other choice now with phones, tablets and games consoles so readily available!
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Lol, at least she does read if it’s about a game or something 🙂 😀 Yep, definitely too many distractions, but she might want to read more in future, I think a lot of people rediscover their interest in reading when they grow up a bit 🙂
Yeah I definitely agree, I didn’t read as much when I was a teenager and have read on and off for the past 10 years!
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Love this post ♡ I didn’t start enjoying reading until I was about 14 years old. In school we would have ‘reading time’ and I would just hold my book up and look around the room or something instead of actually reading. I don’t know why I hated it so much, but it was probably because I was being made to read instead of having the option to read!
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Thank you ❤ 🙂 Yes, that's exactly it! Being forced to read isn't going to make us want to is it. Especially if it's a book we don't want to read either. I'm glad you now enjoy reading 🙂 🙂
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I’m glad you learned to love books in the end.,though sorry about your early reading experiences.
I’ve always loved reading, but to this day stumble over words if I have to read out loud, despite knowing how they should be said. Everyone always assumed it was because I couldn’t see well enough, and then because I was still new at braile, especially since my good memory means I can bypass the issue by memorizing the text if it’s not too long of a piece and I’m given long enough to do so beforehand, so I never needed to admit it before. To this day, the writing group I was in doesn’t know I spent the entire intermission committing the short poem I was to read in the second act at the poetry reading to memory, and was only holding the papers both poems I read that night were on as if I was reading them for something to do with my hands (and so I could use pretending to refer to it as an excuse not to look out at the sea of blurry people staring at me).
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Oh wow! You have such a brilliant memory, you must have felt so proud afterwards. You definitely did far more than you needed to and you should feel proud of yourself. We like to hide achievements like that, but commiting a poem to memory and then reciting it, rather than just reading it from a paper is a big deal. It took me ages to remember just three different lines in a school play once (I have a good visual memory but not so good with words, lol). Please don’t feel bad about stumbling over words, it’s definitely something that a lot of people do for various reasons, and I think a lot of us are actually quite shy and just the nerves of having to read aloud can be enough to make most of us stumble or even go silent completely! 🙂
I’m glad too that I love reading now, it’s so weird to think back and see how difficult it was for me to read, I think if I hadn’t had such a scary/upsetting experience I probably would have loved reading, but it doesn’t matter what happened in the past, what matters is now, and these days I love books and have found a wonderful community of people who love books too, including you 🙂
Thanks for that! 🙂
I think you’re right. At least you were able to move past it, and can now enjoy books. Even when they don’t have pictures. 🙂
I’ve always had a good memory. Doing things like that to avoid actually reading things out loud probably helped improve it. And I was proud of myself, but didn’t want to make a big deal, because it would have meant explaining why I felt the need to, and everyone’s so quick to assume it’s sight related issues rather than nerves. These days there’s no hiding the sight related issues, but at the time I had enough sight to not have to rely on my cane or anything, and was desperate to not seem too different, especially since I was the only disabled person there, and had learned that a lot of adults automatically switched to sympathy mode when something made them remember about my poor eyesight. I always hate that. I mean, I get it. You feel sad that my sight issues mean I can’t do some things, or have to do them differently to be able to do them. But I don’t want sympathy for it.
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I can completely understand. People mean well but their sympathy can sometimes feel like they don’t believe we are capable of doing certain things. It’s difficult to get people to understand sometimes, but don’t let it ever bother you, besides it’s now in the past anyway. 🙂 By the way, I hope you don’t mind me asking, but how do you cope with reading and your sight problems these days? Are you still able to read a bit, or do you rely on a text to speech reader? You’ve talked about sight problems on your blog and I’ve since learned more, but when I first met you (I think you commented on my blog post) I didn’t even realise you had any problems with your sight, you certainly don’t come across as if you do 🙂 If you’d rather not say or if I’ve made you uncomfortable by asking also please say…I don’t want to upset you, I was just curious as you seem to cope so well ❤ 🙂
I had a few sight related problems recently too, though nothing drastic, I did get wonky vision in my left eye for a long time due to problems with something at the back of my eye. It meant everything that should look straight looked curved. It led to headaches because my left eye and right eye weren't seeing the same thing (one seeing things curved and smaller while the other saw everything as normal) and the headaches were made worse when I read digital books which is why I now stay away from digital screens a lot these days. I'm still reluctant to read digital books even though my eyes are better (hopefully permanently).
Sorry you had the issue with your eye. Hope it is fixed for good now.
No problem about asking. Questions are fine. You likely missed the posts where I said it, but I always welcome questions from genuinely curious people who just want to know and understand. 🙂
I’m totally blind now. Lost the last of my sight in my early 20s. I rely on a screen reader to use the internet, write my stories and poems, etc, and sighted assistance – more often than not from my hubby – when the screen reader just can’t do it (like for sorting covers for my books, checking my photos contain what they’re meant to and are labelled so I can put them where I want them in my blog posts, etc). Oh, speaking of blog posts, take a look at my one from yesterday.
Anyway, when it comes to reading, I either use digital books (Kindle’s Voice Over is my friend) or audio books most of the time, but do sometimes also read braille books.
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Wow, sorry for late reply, I’ve been a bit swamped with stuff at home and behind in getting online and answering all comments, visiting blogs etc.
I’m sorry to hear that, it must have been difficult at the time, but it’s good to hear that you have lots of help in being able to read and do things. Honestly, if I didn’t read about your sight issues, you’d never know it from how well you put up posts and comment, etc.
Was braille easy to learn? Last year the RNIB had a special braille awareness day and they translated people’s names into braille. I did get interested in it and maybe partly due to the sight problems I was having as they worried me that I’d get worse. I think braille it’s like an alphabet but with dots isn’t it? I noticed the same letters, or dot combinations, repeating. I’ve also seen that certain supermarkets like co-op, and some medications I use have braille on them too. It must be good to have that for anyone who can’t see. 🙂
Thankfully my eyes are on the mend, but taking their time to get there. I have to look after myself which is why I tend to stay away from too much screen time these days, hence the reason I don’t read digital books anymore, at least for now, as they hurt my eyes. I’m hoping I’ll be fully healed with the macular problem soon though, which is such a relief as the doctors at first didn’t think they could improve anything.
I’ll check out your post, don’t worry. I’m actually going to have more time at the weekend (I usually have more time to visit blogs at the weekend) so I might do all my catching up then as it’s been a bit hectic the last week. I have bookmarked your post so will definitley visit soon, can’t wait to see your answers! 😀
No apology needed. Sometimes offline things are more important. 🙂
I’m glad they were able to improve things, and hope you don’t have more issues further down the line. Limiting screen time to help avoid that is a good plan.
Braille is made up of six dots, with the combination being used – and sometimes the placement in relation to other braille characters/letters – determines what it stands for. Grade 1 braille (basic letters, with just the odd symbol for punctuation) is easiest, but then you have grade 2 (the addition of symbols that can stand for multiple letters, sometimes even whole words) and special symbols used for certain signs in music, maths, and non-English braille. I’m not familiar with the ones for music, only have a basic grasp of a few of the maths ones, and don’t really know the ones used for the special characters in French, etc (though I used the French ones for a while when I was still in school; I’m just not sure I remember them) but I can read grade 1 and grade 2 braille just fine. Whether it’s hard to learn depends on the individual. I learned quickly, because I was determined to do so in order to get a promised reward (a book in grade 2 braille my brother promised to give me his copy of if I could learn to read it by a certain deadline) but people learn at different speeds. So… *shrugs*
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Thank you for telling me more about braille 🙂 I think it’s amazing that you not only learned the dot combinations but I think it’s amazing that you can feel them with your fingers. I have to admit to trying to feel the dots on a tissue box when I know the word in braille is ’tissue’ but I couldn’t make them out, probably due to terribly dry skin I’ve gotten when it got colder. I’m guessing all your senses have probably compensated for your lack of sight 🙂 Anyway thank you for telling me about it, I was very curious but didn’t know how to ask without sounding like I was prying too much or being weird, lol.
Great post 🙂 I have always loved books, apparently I would pretend to read them even before I could read! I think how they are taught at school has a lot to answer for, often boring stories (or those formulaic reading scheme books) put kids off reading. The other problem is today there are so many more distractions. I know people who used to read for fun, and don’t any more because there are things to do on their phones now 😦
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