The world of reading

As part of Year 11 Literature, students were recently asked to write about how books have influenced their lives. Merdi Yamfu Bwanga (pictured right) explains how books helped him learn English.

For my whole life it has been just my parents and me. Although having friends and both of my parents constantly by my side helped brighten up my childhood sometimes, being an only child could get very lonely and, during these times, I would turn to books as a source of entertainment, warmth, joy and hope.

As a child, I adored the various Mister Men books. Living in a third world country meant that access to these books was often quite difficult. Because of this, I was always excited by the familiar smell of a new book and at the thought of exploring the adventures of wonderful and colourful characters. These characters not only allowed me to bond with my parents during a difficult time but they also assisted me in learning to view each person as an individual and understand that people often come in different shapes and sizes. They also provided me with an understanding of the people around me and their emotions. To this day, I keep a copy of Mr Happy by my bedside as a reminder that I should always strive to look for good and happiness in the world.

I moved to Australia when I was seven years old. Prior to coming to Australia, my parents and I lived in Cameroon as refugees. Having to leave my whole life, friendships that I had built, and places that I had grown familiar with was especially difficult, as it was all I had known. At the time, I felt as if this was the end of my life and that there was no moving forward. Little did I know I would soon discover a whole new world, a world in which everyone was safe, happy and free to be themselves; it was incomparable to the world I had previously known.

From a young age, books allowed me not only to view and understand others’ struggles and dreams but to also create my own dreams, and sometimes escape my own reality. During a time when I barely spoke a word of English, picture books allowed me to view the stories and draw my own meaning from them. Pretty soon I found myself relating these pictures to words and, in turn, speaking those words. Not only did books teach me about others, they helped me gain a better understanding of myself.

Children’s picture books such as Possum Magic and Wombat Stew introduced me to Australian culture, a culture which would soon become a part of me. I vividly remember my favourite part of the school day being story time. Mr Mancini, my teacher at the time, would clap his hands five times and this would signal to the class it was reading time. Along with my fellow students, I would instantly stop what I was doing and rush to sit with legs crossed, on the carpet in front of him to have the best view of the book he was reading. The contrast of the red Australian soil and grey bark and leaves soon became a symbol of the Australian landscape for me.

I often find myself gravitating towards books that remind me of happy childhood memories. Now being much older, I have a better understanding of the world around me. Through what I have read and experienced, I am now aware that instead of dreading change which is constantly occurring around me, I should simply go along with life’s unpredictable flow.