Growing up I was never an avid reader. I always remember being told to read when there was nothing else to do. After homework, ‘alu faitau le tusi’. Sitting in front of the television, ‘alu faitau le tusi’. When asking to go to a party at College, ‘alu faitau le tusi’ #TrueStory.
So it was no surprise that my sister and I had read and re-read the one pile of school books that were accidentally not returned to school and the second hand books my parents had collected for us when we were younger.
Then one day we found dad wiping down a surprise he had for us with a cloth in the back sunroom, where all the books in the house lived. Hearing us enter he proudly stepped back revealing the Britannica Encyclopedia set he had purchased from the door to door salesman #IMissThe90s.
He was so excited as he talked about how we could now read all 26 volumes and will never run out of books to read. My dad was #NoJoke.
The next book that stands out in my reading history was the Tusi Paia, the Sāmoan bible. We had joined the Sāmoan Methodist Church at the time and it was an automatic requirement, especially with bible passages to read and memorise for White Sundays.
At school, my teacher replaced my dad as the person telling me to read a book. The only difference was that the teacher would recommend or select books for me most of the time. I remember reading about Sally going on picnics and Timmy going on family holidays – as well as a long list of characters and storylines that I didn’t necessarily relate to but helped me to acquire information to complete tasks and understand the palagi world I lived in.
So it would be safe to say that for most of my childhood I read because I had to and not necessarily because I wanted to.
Then one fateful night, I remember going through the ‘biggish’ books my older sister was bringing home from her Bursary English class to read and study – especially since the Britannica Encyclopedia set was not really doing it for me anymore.
Then a book caught my eye. It was different. The cover featured two boys, primary aged sitting on a bench. They were Māori because they looked like some of my Māori friends I had grown up with and the author’s name was definitely Māori. I remember sounding it out, ‘Wi-ti … Ihi-mae-ra’. It was called the, The New Net Goes Fishing.
Then I started to read the stories inside. My eyes widened. Connections fired off in my brain. The New Net had gone Fishing and it had caught me.