Reading has been a crucial part of my childhood. I was growing a bilingual child: as I am from Azerbaijan, Azeri is my native language, but at the same time, due to the fact, that my family also speaks Russian, I was speaking both of the languages. Mixing Azeri and Russian was something usual when I was speaking with my family at home, with relatives, and with everyone who was also bilingual as me. When I went to school, I was studying in the Russian sector, which means all of the subjects were taught in Russian. When I was in first grade, we started learning English as a foreign language and I still remember reading various short stories in English and my family was helping me with the translation of some parts that were left unclear for me. I enjoyed our teamwork and, therefore, reading in English became a pleasure. Now, I know three languages and there is also one that I just understand, but I do not speak – Turkish (because it is similar to Azeri). Being able to read and write in four languages makes me extremely happy due to the fact, that I have access to a huge amount of information.
I do not remember exactly when and how I first learned to read, but I still remember that happy feeling of holding my favorite book and realizing that I do not have to wait for someone else to read for me as now I am able to do it by myself. But even then I still liked it when my mother was reading me our selected collection of books before I went to sleep. In fact, I knew almost every single word of some favorite chapters, and I liked pronouncing them together with her until the moment of falling asleep.
I highly enjoyed reading my personal collection of books in spare time and becoming immersed in a flow: sitting and reading my books for hours and ignoring everything and everyone around me. This state of full involvement had always been present if I had some free time at home. However, as I was growing up, I started even hating reading due to the fact, that I was used to reading what I am interested in, not what I am forced to read at school. Moreover, writing essays about the novels and the poems that were assigned by the teachers also made me not enjoy writing at all. In my opinion, the main reason why I started hating reading books and writing essays about them was the fact that in high school we were told that we cannot write in our essays that we didn’t like a character or a story, or that we disagree with the author’s point. It was required to tell about how we enjoyed the book and how we admire the characters. In other words, school killed an aspiring reader in me. In my last two years in high school, I came to the conclusion that I didn’t read for myself anymore. My tradition of spending at least an hour of reading before going to sleep just disappeared. I tried to read new genres, but every new book was left unfinished on my bookshelf. After graduating from high school, things changed: three months of freedom were given to me and I used them to start reading again. Being multilingual helped me to recover because I was reading in all three languages, which gave me the access to everything that interested me. Fortunately, this ability to experience the pleasure of reading was not lost if it was about a book that I liked.
Taking everything into account, I came to the conclusion that what played the major role in my difficulties with the desire to read and write was negative high school experience where we were forced to read the books we were not interested in and write about our huge enjoyment which in reality did not exist.
After the quiet period for an inspired reader in me, in my opinion, now I am ready to be the active reader again. In this class, I am discovering something that I have never tried before – graphic novels, and I feel that I will really love reading them.
Photo: by me