I don’t know when I started reading while I walked. Probably when I began secondary school and suddenly had the dead time of a familiar route on my hands every day. Not a particularly scenic route, so no need for exalted appreciation of my surroundings: just dead time.

In my house, dead time didn’t really exist. We didn’t have television but I don’t remember ever being bored. We had books, and games that continued the stories in those books. Between gobbling down Malorie Blackmans and Dick King-Smiths, we were playing at being The Famous Five and Five Children and It. As a gang of only three, this took some imagination, especially as my sister always made our little brother be Timmy the dog in the former – a role with very little scripting.

I knew how to amuse myself in the house, so why wouldn’t I take that out onto the street? People always comment on my readwalking habit and I find it surprising. It’s really not hard as long as you have eyes. You hold the book slightly to the side and use your peripheral vision to watch your feet and the path ahead. Only once has this gone awry: about seven years ago, I walked into a lamppost on my way to work. Hard.

Interestingly, my mam never seemed to worry about the potential road-car-smash implications of readwalking. Roads in general, yes. Men following at a short distance and not crossing over to the other side (the only gentlemanly way to behave in her eyes) – but not traversing just under a mile of uneven pavement and busy road crossings with a book in my face. And hey, she was right. Here I am, alive and infinitely better read after all the extra hours of book time.

Half an hour in the morning and half an hour in the evening, say four days a week since I was 12. Adjusting for school holidays and university (when I did barely anything joyful and nourishing), I calculate around 1,660 extra hours of reading in my life due to being a bibliopedestrian. That’s nearly 70 days: two months of solid reading. And I got that for free, while other people were blankly zombie-ing along, arms swinging impotently at their sides.

From a little nose about the internet, it seems most people are surprised and amused by the concept, which suggests to me that not enough children are taught that library day is treat day. Kids seem to me obsessive little things (I collected monkey nut shells for a time) so why not feed them an obsession that can make their adult existence so much easier – or if not easier, richer? I’ve never struggled with grammar (your basic everyday grammar that is; I struggle with grammar choices all the time) and that’s because the more you read, the more you subconsciously absorb all the wonderful and awful things that the best and worst writers do. A reader knows what they like, what works.

Over time, that liking or disliking forms an internal stylesheet. As a kid who was destined to be a writer, that is the most precious gift my parents could have ever given me.

Am I right? Tell me!

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