When I was younger, I loved to read. I could get through a whole book in a day, and used to beg my parents every night to let me stay up later so I could 'just finish my chapter'. From fairytales to thrillers, non-fiction to plays, I devoured any literature that I could get my hands on.
However, while there are many books for younger children, once you reach your mid-teens the options become limited. I found myself choosing between books for children that were silly and patronizing, and adult books that I couldn't quite understand.
This lack of choice eventually led me to read less and less. When I was in secondary school, the only books I read were ones we were assigned in English class, and I was never very enthusiastic about my teacher's choices. I thought too much discussion of symbolism and themes ruined the book. Maybe the sky being blue didn't represent or foreshadow anything; maybe it was just a description! Rather than instilling a love of literature in me, it made me vow never to pick up a book again.
Fortunately, I realised very quickly that deciding to go to university meant that I had signed up for four years of reading books. I reluctantly chose a French literature module in my first year. I started out grumpy, determined not to enjoy any of the works we were studying over the course of the year. However, I soon realised that at a university level, the discussion was more fruitful and the books more interesting, and I found I had a lot to say! Books with women as the main characters especially interested me, and being able to discuss my thoughts with other people meant that I could better understand the subtle aspects of the plot: yes, even the symbolism and themes.
I began reading again for pleasure, starting with Malcolm X's autobiography and never looking back. Now, during my year abroad, I spend a lot of my spare time in bookshops and reading in cafés, and even attend a monthly book club with some other language assistants.
Reading is a great way to escape, broaden your horizons, improve your vocabulary and use your imagination: I'm so happy that I rediscovered my love of books.