The Power of Reading

Some students have a background or story that is so central to their identity that they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.

I cannon-balled into reading in first grade and have not emerged to catch my breath yet. Reading is the medium through which I grow. Books have swept me light years and alternate realties away, but have always returned me with more understanding of my world and others than when I left.

There is always a book tucked in my purse, backpack, or under my arm. Reading is my simplest, most adored pleasure. I love when a combination of words is so fresh that you look at the topic with a different understanding. I love when I pick up a book that articulates the singularities of the teenage experience so perfectly. I love when an author writes my own fears, challenges, or corroborates my ideals, and stretches my imagination to push breath and color into characters. With a strong imagination and a good book I can slip out of my skin and into any life I want, no matter how improbable. Books can also be a connection to and a celebration of life, not necessarily an escape from it. I read with the intent of learning. Books expand my world, every description coloring my view of a person, place, or way of life. When I read about a Jewish girl confined to her neighbor’s attic, it is not because I don’t want to be Lilly; it is because I want to understand Anne and her world. I want to explore every experience, understand every point of view, no matter how different from my own. My world is never dulled or muted after reading; it is only enhanced by my new knowledge and the fresh perspective I have to view it through.

I realize that even though there is a lot of inequity in this world, with books I have a powerful ally as I try to influence change. At Banneker Elementary, a local school, I participated in Reading Under the Stars. My friends acted out the scenes of children’s books while I narrated. We saw little, rapt faces staring up at us from pillows and heard the screams of “Again! Another!” Seeing how much our young audience enjoyed it, I wanted to help others have the same opportunities to grow and learn through reading. I walked with my friends in a charity event to support the organization A Room to Read, and we raised enough funds to build a library at a small all-girls school in Africa. I researched different nonprofits that supplied books to underprivileged schools, women’s shelters, prisons, and homeless shelters. I organized a book drive at my school and scoured thrift stores and church sales for inexpensive books. Through donations of books and money (and the painful gutting of my own shelves) I was able to surpass my original goal of 500 books, ultimately donating 1,300 books to Books for America.

While I will never know what happened with the books I donated, I do know that each book has the possibility of pivoting someone’s life in a different direction. I take something away from every book I read. The more knowledge I accumulate through reading, the more powerful I feel. It is my hope that the recipients of the donated books are sparked with the same confidence and continue to return to books as I do for fun, adventure, wisdom, and especially the pursuit of knowledge.

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