When I think about my childhood, reading and writing were the only things that actually made me understand and love the world. In my poverty struck life, computers or TVs did not exist. I did not have parents who would read me bed time stories. They were more worried about putting food on the table and they truly worked very hard for it. I can understand the struggle that they went through now, but then it was all blurry. My mum and dad couldn’t read or write, but dad loved books. Every night when he came home from work he would ask me to read for him. Sometimes I read him a book that I had got from a neighbour, and sometimes a newspaper that they had wrapped the shopping in. I even read him the adverts on the newspaper. It didn’t matter what I read, he just loved listening to my loud reading. He was a street seller, he would push a very heavy cart every morning and evening to the centre of the city. In the summer time he would sell lemonade and winter time a milky drink called ‘salep’, autumn was the desert time and spring meatballs in bread. I always wondered where did he get the energy to listen to me every evening after such a hard day. He never complained though. I know if he could have afforded to he would have bought me many books but money was something that we never had.
We had one bedroom, which was a living room during the day time and a bedroom for six people in the night. Bathroom was a large plastic bowl in one corner of the room that appeared only at the weekends and the kitchen was a small camping cooker in another corner. There were no places that I could hide and dream, except for the books. They did not take much space, I could just keep one under my pillow and enter the world of adventure whenever I wanted.
When I was in middle school my two best friends gifted me a book each; Heidi by Johanna Spyri and Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett. I don’t know how many times I read these two books over the years, each time it felt as if I was on a different journey. Through them I travelled to lands that I didn’t even know existed. I thought London was just a made up place, so I dreamed the loft room that little Sara Crewe stayed. I felt her pain when the school owners were so cruel to her and her joy when her father’s friend finally found her. The same with Heidi I felt the breeze of the Alps on my face, and found comfort in Heidi’s kindness to everyone. These books didn’t only allow me to learn about different places and people’s lives but it helped me to develop the most important skill for a better world and that is empathy. It doesn’t matter which job you do; a teacher, a doctor, a shopkeeper, an academic, you need to have the ability to understand what people are going through and visualise how your actions would impact on them. It is only through empathy that we can reflect on our own actions and become a more considerate person towards others. Otherwise we end up being tormented by cruel bullies. And believe me they don’t just disappear after school, you find them at work too. For me books were my teachers, teaching me the most important skills that I still use for shaping my life.
It is natural that after reading so many books I was able to write my own stories from a very young age. I won many story and poetry competitions in primary and secondary school. My ability to play with words to express my mind was so high, my teacher questioned whether it was my parents who were writing my stories. When I told him that they couldn’t read or write, he said nothing and looked at me with a beautiful warm smile. After this he spent more time with me helping me with my writing skills.
I believe that my experiments of dealing with different situations in stories helped me to become a better problem solver. I learned to visualise solutions to many problems; it could be a simple game design issue or finding the best route when I travel. I taught myself many things and learnt very quickly too. I learned to play piano in couple of weeks and managed to reach grade 5 within months. I taught myself how to design websites using html when I was pregnant and then earned my living from designing websites for many years. So from reading for pleasure to learning for pleasure, I developed a love for learning, learning anything…
Now, almost twenty years after I came to England, I set a challenge to myself; I know I can write academic papers but the question is can I write stories in English, after all it is not my native language and experimenting with words in English is a lot harder. This is how I decided to have a go and share my stories. I hope to publish the first one in the Spring of 2019. Let’s see if I can help a child to learn skills such as empathy to make our world a better place for everyone. Let’s see if I can help someone else to develop a love for reading and learning so that they will be empowered to shape their future.
As always, thank you for reading!
The image is from Freepik.com