I have always loved reading. From a very young age, I absolutely inhaled books. My hero growing up was Nancy Drew. When I was in fifth grade, I read over 50 of those abbreviated classics. You know, the hard cover books, mostly white covers, with pictures every two or three pages. They were shortened versions of Dracula, Sense and Sensibility, Robinson Crusoe, and things like that. Granted, I don’t remember all of the stories, but I plowed through them. My dad read my sister and me The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings as bedtime stories. I read The Silmarillion for a grade seven book report (and was then asked to summarize it on a piece of paper just a big bigger than my hand …).
Belle has always been my favourite Disney princess. Hermione has for years been who I want to be when I grow up. I think that reading is so, so important. And not just because it improves your vocabulary or makes you better at your English classes. But rather, it makes you more empathetic. Think of all the lives that you live when you read works of fiction. Or biographies. There are so many peoples’ experiences, both real and fantastical, to which you have access when you pick up a book. You can live the life of a peasant in 14th century Belgium, or a Roman soldier in 100 B.C. And with each character, you are given the opportunity to feel things that you wouldn’t necessarily have the opportunity to feel in your own life.
Every time you let yourself be swept away by a book, that’s an opportunity to see the world in a different way. There are books that I’ve read that I know have changed me, that have made me into a better version of myself. I have taken strength and hope and understanding from so many different characters I’ve met in my literary travels. Travels that have taken me all over the world, all through space and time, from planets in unknown galaxies to civilizations that exist within the crust of our own Earth.
I have cried over characters, because I’ve been made to feel like I’ve known them for years, and I think that’s so important. It may sound so trivial, to be so emotionally moved by people who don’t really “exist.” But who’s to say that they don’t? When you pick up a book, you enter into a world that the author has created for you, and you add to it, and you understand it differently that anyone else will when they read it, and so why shouldn’t you become emotionally attached to these characters to whom you are so deeply connected, whom you have had such a large part in creating?
Truly, I believe that reading makes you a more more open, more accepting human being. There is empathy and understanding and determination to be gained on every page. I want to share with you some of my favourite books, all of which have helped to shape me into the person I am today. I hope you read them.
N.B. I’ve mostly kept the major spoilers to the last paragraph, before which I have written SPOILERS, to remind you. I got your back.