Reading Connects Us
Quite recently I was visiting a school in South London. A group of students were reading ‘Boy in the Tower’ for their reading club and I’d dropped in to see them to answer any questions they had.
I went around meeting the group, stooping around each table to say hello, asking them what their reading club was like, which books they enjoyed. They quite liked telling me which part they were up to in ‘Boy in the Tower’, what was happening in the bit they were reading.
One of the girls pointed out a boy on her table and told me that he’d read loads and had got really far. The boy nodded. The same girl also asked me why there were not more pictures in my book because she liked reading books that had more pictures in, like manga. I agreed that I liked those books too and told her about a graphic novel I’d just finished and apologised that my book didn’t have more pictures. The boy she pointed out before said something like, “I like books without pictures. Because then you can picture it in your head, you’re right there.”
He asked me if I could start to answer some of his questions because he had quite a lot of them.
He had filled two sides of a4.
We got started on his questions. He made a point of taking a note of what my answers were as we went along which made me realise how silly some of my answers were. Sometimes his questions led us off talking about completely different things. He told me a little about his family, what it was like to move cities, that sometimes they were so many of them around the dinner table and how that was fun. It was tricky to summarise on paper what my answers actually were in the end. We didn’t get through them all before I had to start my talk and so afterwards he ran up to me to finish.
It’s not hard to understand how touching I found this exchange. I find myself turning it over in my mind at odd moments, wondering at its magic. Was it the pleasure he’d taken from reading, that for those moments seemed visible, tangible, as though it popped through the air? Or was it that reading has the power to connect? That, on that day, it connected us.
The day after my visit, the librarian at the school sent me this picture the boy wanted to send on:
Boy in the Tower is shortlisted for the 2016 Children’s Book Award in the Books for Younger Readers category. It is published by Doubleday.