The Strangeworlds Travel Agency

Guest Post by L.D.Lapinski

At parents’ evening in year five, my mum and dad were told by my teacher that I had been repeatedly “caught” reading (with the open book on my lap under the table) when I should be working. I’d also been collared for standing books up and propping their pages open with the short end of a ruler – just enough to read inside if you moved your head a bit. My teacher insisted that I should be saving reading as a treat, for when I’d finished doing other things. My parents must have been quietly amused by this, because only three years earlier I’d caused a school-wide panic by not being with my class when the fire alarm went off. It turned out I’d been in the class reading corner, so engrossed in my book that I hadn’t even heard the bell. Looking back, this is absolutely hysterical. My parents had no hope at all of stopping me reading (and, happily, they didn’t even try to), because books were my life. And they still are.

Everything I am is the result of a childhood of books. I struggle to remember how old I was when I first rode a bike, or got my own key, but I remember the colour of the accounts book Ruby and Garnet from Double Act wrote their story in, what Bramwell Brown had done with Little Bear’s trousers (he’d filled them with pink icing!), and every long day of summer I still think of Shirley Hughes’ poetry (sunshine at bedtime – why isn’t it dark?). Books have formed my personality, filled the wells of my creativity, and overflowed. Books took me to university, and books are now my career.

Access to books has never been more important, as children and adults search for escapism in a world turned topsy-turvy. Libraries are currently closed, which cuts a great many children off from their usual way of getting hold of books. And although a great many offer digital borrowing, it does mean that children and their families will need an expensive e-reader or smartphone to be able use these services. When our libraries open again, I hope beyond hope that the people clutching the purse-strings finally see how essential libraries are. Reading is, if you boil it down, entertainment. But, like all types of storytelling, it manages to be so much more than that. It’s an escape into another world – no matter the story! – where we learn empathy, feel outrage, delight in justice, and form ideas of our own. 

We are all children of books, whether our experiences were positive or not. We owe it to children to at least give them the opportunity to turn their reading life into something rich, varied, enjoyable, and most of all – easy to get to. 

The Strangeworlds Travel Agency is published by Hachette and is available to purchase from 30th April 2020.

Any opinions expressed in this feature may bot reflect those of the FCBG.

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