A life without reading must be a forlorn life. I cannot imagine a life without the solace of books, cozy libraries, and warm coffee shops. All of the books I have read in my life have provided an escape from the ebbs and flows of a harsh reality. Reading has always been there for me ever since I was young. The course of my life has been changed after opening up a book, and flipping through its pages. The spectre of books has haunted me ever since, but my reading journey isn’t all about happiness – it’s a lot like a roller coaster taking me along its ups and downs.
My relationship with reading started quite early. I was still walking wobbly in diapers when I first held a picture book. I flipped through it, looking at each illustration and connected it with real life. There was a time when I eventually got tired of these picture books, after getting jealous of my mum reading, “Reader’s Digest,” all the time. “Digest, Digest,” I used to say as my mum read and she would hand one out to me. I would pretend to read, but really I was just looking at the pictures.
I had parents who read to me every night before going to bed, and I often fell asleep even before they had gotten to the end. Nevertheless, I had learned how to read a few words even before I started school and I had developed an intimate relationship with reading. I thought it would stay that way for good.
Everything changed when I started school. Reading became such a tedious task that I came close to hating. Teachers made us read this and that, until I forgot what reading meant to me. Threads in my psyche associated reading with pain and school. I hated reading during classes, but I loved going to the library during breaks. I would read until the bell would ring.
In all honesty, I realised that it was my teachers who made reading such a boring and improbable task. Eventually, I slacked off and they were convinced that I had to have a reading tutor. I never knew why I needed one, for a reason I could read both in English and Tagalog. The tutorials were a good influence to me. My tutor and I started with a few English selections that I had to read out loud during sessions. Afterwards, I would answer questions regarding the story we read together in order to gauge if I fully comprehended a text.
My tutor also addressed my spelling issues. I had a hard time spelling polysyllabic words. I really hated the word, dilemma. I fumed whenever the teacher called out the word during spelling tests. Until now, I still remember how I hated that word. I also had a hard time with B’s and D’s, I often interchanged the two. My mum would tell me to associate small B’s with a pregnant woman. I didn’t get it; small D’s also looked like pregnant women facing the left.
I went from subtle readings to a few complicated ones. I enjoyed my tutorials immensely and even started borrowing books from the bookshelves to read at home. I viewed reading as a pleasurable task ever since and my grades eventually got better. I also became a candidate for Spelling Bees during the fifth grade and I became the champion of easy words.
My first language is Filipino though English was widely spoken at home. I never had a hard time reading in English but sometimes I had a hard time reading deep Filipino texts. It’s quite a shame actually, when you speak two tongues, yet you can speak the foreign language better than your mother tongue. It’s an arduous reality – being bilingual. It’s either your fluent in both or you’re not. Sadly, I’m the latter.
As I grew deeply into myself, I held onto reading quite all the more. My room is filled with different books of all genres, and sizes. I am a book hoarder – I would shop for books even if there is still a pile of books waiting to be read at home. I am a literary polygamist – I read a lot of books all at the same time. Reading has always been a hobby and an escape, up to now – especially now.
One can never learn everything from books, but you can learn a lot from reading for reading sharpens the psyche and strengthens your capability to anticipate life’s eventualities and eventually you can make better decisions for yourself.