You might be shocked to know, but my love of reading a book from start to finish has only just happened in the last 2-3 years. I read books for exams at school but only because I had to read them, and really didn't enjoy it one little bit! The only time I did enjoy it was when I was asked to read out loud in front of the class, as I then used it as an acting exercise! Anything but straight, quiet reading by myself, which I now treasure!
The one book that did make an impact and sticks in my mind is 'To Kill a Mocking Bird' by Haper Lee. This book tells the story of how a white middle class family from Alabama fights against racism and injustice in the 1960s. The main characters are Atticus Finch, a lawyer and father of six-year-old Scout Finch, her older brother Jem and their friend Dill.
Atticus takes on a case whereby a man is accused of attacking a woman with no proof other than her word against his; her story was always a lie and it was her that approached him before being caught be her father, who turns the story around to defend her daughter. Atticus is taunted by people in his community for representing the man, whilst his children are also mocked and bullied.
My favourite character was the young Scout; I was impressed at how strong, sharp and grounded she was for her age! She interested me a lot and made me think about what I was like when I was that age: was I that strong? And would I have stuck up for my father to great lengths?
I was also drawn-in by the spooky house on their street which the children are fascinated with and always talk about; "Boo" Radely lives there, a man who had hardly been seen for years. There were many bad rumours surrounding his background, and again it brought me back to my childhood days when my older brothers and I would dare each other to go and knock on the "haunted house" that was near our holiday home - it used to excite and scare the life out of me!
I don't want to ruin the ending but it haunted me for weeks afterwards and left me feeling angry at how people can be treated so differently and wrongly because of the colour of their skin; however, I was inspired by how Scout and Jem dealt with it, and their stand against injustice.
I am glad and thankful that my husband forced me to start reading for pleasure, as it took me years to listen to him and pickup a book! I used to get so envious and frustrated when I saw him roar with laughter or weep with every word he read; I wanted a book to have that effect on me! But how, when I didn't enjoy reading?
It had to be a book that held my attention and kept me wanting to read it; when my husband finished 'The Road', I started it straight away and didn't put it down until I finished - it was such an achievement and relief to know that I could read, comprehend and, most importantly, enjoy a book!
When I was in the running for the role of Elphaba, I knew it was important to research and study as much background information as I could, so I got my head stuck into 'Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West' by Gregory Maguire and I believe I lost many days, weeks, and months reading it - I was captivated! I was hooked and loved that I would be playing this intricate and amazing girl; I was again amazed at how I was addicted and couldn't wait to read and experience something I'd never felt before. I had the reading bug so my husband selected a few others that I might like e.g. '1984' (a classic which I loved), 'Girl with the Dragon Tattoo' 'The Help' which I recently finished and adored.
I wouldn't say I'm a compulsive reader now, and don't think that I ever will, but it's great to know that when I want to read a book, I can and enjoy it too! If my favourite English teacher, Miss Kelly from Little Flower School, ever reads this, I thank you too for your constant effort to get me to love books!
For more information on the Wicked Young Writers Award visit www.wickedyoungwriters.com