Meet Islington’s new Reading Champion
Cllr Tricia Clarke has lived in Islington for 40 years and has been a regular library member for most of that time. As a single mum, she took her children to North Library on a Saturday morning to listen to the librarian read stories and years later she takes her granddaughter to Central Library for story time. She explains how reading has played a main role in her life and why she wanted to be the Islington Reading Champion.
What role has reading played in your life?
I grew up on a council estate in West Cumbria and my mum took me to the library, which was in a large wooden hut, when I was five. I have been excited about libraries and books since then. In those days the librarian date stamped the books and I thought it looked like a wonderful job. Curling up with a book helped me through my teens. And my most intimate times with my children was reading to them at bedtime and now it is with my grandchildren. I especially like reading Jacqueline Wilson books to my 11-year-old granddaughter. My 5-year-old granddaughter likes books by Raymond Briggs.
Why do you think reading is important?
Reading helps you understand the world and can transport you into a different one. Relaxing with a good book can be comforting, absorbing and gripping. Books have helped me throughout my life – as a young mum I read psychology books and feminist books, which affected me a lot and helped me change my life. There was a feminist bookshop in Upper Street called Sisterwrite and I loved going there.
How would you encourage someone who wasn’t keen on reading?
I would encourage them to get involved in the Summer Reading Challenge and they may discover that reading is fun and libraries are social places to go to. Libraries have every book under the sun – banned books, comic books, picture books, classics, poetry. Libraries have homework clubs, toy libraries and teen books, so there is something for everyone and every taste.
What was the first book you remember reading and loving as a child
On that first trip to the library with my mum I took out Alison Uttley’s ‘Little Grey Rabbit’ and loved it, especially the pictures. When I was about six I went to hospital for an operation and my dad came to visit me and brought me a ‘Milly Molly Mandy’ book, she lived in a house with her extended family of aunts and her grandma. Later I read ‘Swallows and Amazons’ by Arthur Ransome. I loved and lived the book and played it in my back garden using the clothes line pole as my boat’s mast.
When and where do you like to read?
With my feet up on the sofa, or during a long train journey with a bar of chocolate. I like reading the newspaper in the library, and fine it easier to concentrate with other people around.
Why did you want to be the Islington Reading Champion?
I was so excited to become the Reading Champion because I love Islington libraries and it is an opportunity to meet the people who use them and who work in them.
Which has been your favourite Reading Champion event so far?
It is the first one I attended – the award ceremony for the Reading Ahead Challenge. The young people were so proud of their achievement and proud to receive their certificates and I felt very humbled and honoured to be there. Paul Lyalls, the Word Festival’s poet in residence, was giving out the certificates and was very funny. It was clear that many of the participants had overcome many difficulties to have got that far.
Which reading event are you most looking forward to?
The Summer Reading Challenge – I intend to read some of the books listed in the teens books leaflet and some of the greatest novels of the 20th century. I am especially looking forward to the award ceremony at the end.