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An ode to reading; why every child should have access to books

Flickr: wackystuff

We adults often forget how much leisure reading benefits us. We are so consumed by our lives that we often do not have time to read a whole book that’s not for work or school. Personally, I have been trying to remedy this. I usually get my leisure reading done during travel or that fateful rainy day when I have nothing to do but curl up with a book and a cup of tea on the couch. However, that does not come often. When it does come, I always ask myself why I don’t read more for pleasure. I love that feeling when I finish a good book; I close the book as I come to fully understand the whole story and its reason for being - I feel as if I’ve been lifted into some spiritual plane. Don’t you love that feeling? These leisure readings help us shape who we are by understanding and connecting with the author. Every book I have read has shaped me in some way. Whether I liked the book or not, it has challenged my own way of thinking and perspectives.

When I read, I am consumed by the world that the author has created. I might even become one with the protagonist; I step into the characters’ shoes and learn how they view the world, and the reasons for their actions. I have come to use books as a way to guide myself through my own life. Whenever I feel I have a problem, I might ask myself what would a certain favorite character of mine do. While one may argue that we can use role models outside of books to do this (and I wholeheartedly agree), books portray life’s trajectory. Not only do we read about characters, but we are with them every step of the way. So, while I may look up to Adam Braun (Founder and CEO of Pencils of Promise), I have no idea how he got to where he is- that is- unless I read his memoir! It is through his memoir that I am reminded that he is a human being just like me, who suffers from daily squabbles. Ultimately, reading helps us connect with one another. Below is a list of powerful book quotes that have changed my life for the better, and made me a global citizen. Enjoy!

1. Harper Lee, To Kill A Mockingbird

Flickr: Young Doo Moon

I read Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird on my own, before it was required reading in school. Because I attended three different schools that all required this book, I ended up reading this book three more times in the span of four years! Clearly teachers think this book is a must-read. I requested to see the film adaptation for my twelfth birthday party (I know, my parties are awesome). This book portrays a realistic historic account of prejudice and inequality (the novel is loosely based on a similar incident Lee witnessed as a young girl). It is told through the eyes of a young bright girl, Scout. What I love about this book is that Scout, who is a white American, does not experience prejudice firsthand, she does not know how it feels, but knows that it is not something she’d like to encounter, so why should anyone else? She does everything she can to fight against prejudices and inequality. I connected with Scout so much because she was not much younger than me when I read it, and if she could make a difference, so could I. And so can we all. By the way, I also recently learned that Harper Lee is publishing a sequel! Five decades later!

2. Roald Dahl, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

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If you haven’t read the book, you probably know the story from the movie adaptations. What I bet you did not know is that Dahl based this story off himself! At least a little bit, anyway. In his schooldays, there were two chocolate companies that would send test packages to schoolchildren in exchange for their opinions on their new products. This caused both companies to become increasingly secretive and protective of their chocolate-making processes. Dahl was also inspired by the big machines used in the factories, hence his crazy, and elaborate machines in the inventing room. Willy Wonka represents the idea that we can achieve what we set our minds to - he built a whole factory and expanded a young boy’s whole world.

3. Adam Braun, The Promise of a Pencil: How an Ordinary Person Can Create Extraordinary Change

Flickr: David N.

Adam Braun is the Founder and CEO of Pencils of Promise, an organization that believes that every child should have access to quality education. Naturally, Pencils of Promise is also the title of his memoir. As I mentioned earlier, I love this memoir because it gives me the courage to go for what I believe in. A fun fact: the name of the organization comes from an incident when Braun was visiting India and asked a young boy from the streets if he could have anything in the world, what would it be? The boy answered a pencil. Why? The pencil represents the education that that boy was denied. In Braun’s memoir, you find that this becomes his favorite question to ask children all around the world. They all basically say the same thing, they want a good education.

4. Toni Morrison, Beloved

Flickr: Angela R Goodreads: Bianca S.

A beautifully written novel about a horrific series of events. I spent a good three days curling up in bed lamenting and asking why my English Literature teacher put this on the syllabus. Briefly put, this novel is set after the American Civil War, Sethe (the protagonist) is a runaway slave who tries to defend herself and her family from plantation owners. The quote above perfectly defines the novel, as Sethe is essentially running away from those attempting to put her in a box or define her. The takeaway in simple terms, do not let anyone else tell you who you are.

5. Rick Riordan, The Lightning Thief

 Goodreads: Rick R.

This fantasy novel based on Greek mythology is a about a young boy, Percy Jackson. Percy, a somewhat seemingly normal boy, finds out he’s a half-blooded god. He has to go save humanity from the wrath of the gods or demons, not sure - I didn’t pay attention. Ultimately, Percy overcame (and his fear of) dyslexia when he and his friends were placed in a life-threatening situation, and that’s what’s important.

6. Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

 Photo via

A coming-of-age novel, Maya grows up in the American South as a young black girl. She is faced with many challenges, foremost racism and rape. To help her cope, Maya finds solace in literature; books become her refuge. She grows from a victim to a dignified young woman capable of fighting against prejudices. That’s an inspirational story for all of us.

7. Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

Flickr: Thalita C.  

I don’t want to burst anyone’s bubble, but Jane Austen’s prose actually puts me to sleep. I had to force myself to read Pride and Prejudice so I could prove to a friend as to why I’m not a big Austen fan. While I still did not fall in love with the book, as every other girl in my high school did, I did appreciate Austen’s sarcasm and self-deprecation. She reminds and reassures readers that you are like any other human being prone to feelings and emotions and that it is natural to make mistakes. No matter how much I pride myself on being eloquently sociable, I do say the wrong thing that could get me in trouble, much like the protagonist Elizabeth Bennett. A comforting reminder to anyone in intense social situations.

8. Shel Silverstein, Where the Sidewalk Ends

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Silverstein should just be a requirement in all kindergarten classes. He’s a classic and his works are timeless. ‘Nuff said.

9. Sheryl Sandberg, Lean In

 Goodreads: Michael R

That quote alone is reason enough to be on here. At first, this book seems daunting, but the knowledge and tips you accumulate from Sandberg greatly overpower any fear you have ever had and fills you with self-empowerment.

10. Mitch Albom, Tuesdays with Morrie?

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This is a real life account of how Mitch Albom finds out that his mentor and favorite college professor is dying. And thus begins a ritual on Tuesdays when the two meet for the day, hang out and discuss life. The dying professor, Morrie, essentially teaches Albom more in his late days than he taught him in his college days. You will want to reassess your life’s trajectory after this.

11. J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2)

 Imgur: Standingidlyby

Harry Potter is my reason for reading-thank you J.K. Rowling. One summer, bored out of my wits, my grandmother sat me down and read me the first chapter of the first book in the Harry Potter series. As soon as she finished, I begged her to read more, but she was too tired. Of course, I had to know what happened to the boy who lived. This was the first book I ever read for myself and going through the book series became the reason for my existence. It goes without saying that J.K. Rowling is a great writer. If this gets kids into reading, then it’s a plus for all global citizens to be.

12. Azar Nafisi, Reading Lolita in Tehran

Flickr: With An Eye

Azar Nafisi is insanely brilliant and a hero. When Iran (where she is from) forbade her to teach, did she listen? Absolutely not. She taught in her own home, because education is vital to our existence and to deny anyone an education should be a crime. I have had the lucky pleasure of meeting Azar Nafisi, so I did what any fan would do - ask a ton of questions and keep her talking. During our talk, what really resonated with me was the power with which she spoke. I want to do a lot of things, as in change the world- you know? But I need to be more confident. Nafisi helped me. She builds all of her students’ confidence with a simple ‘of course you can’ attitude.

Authors, whatever their intentions are for writing the book, are essentially communicating their perspectives of the world with the readers. The more we read, the more we understand how many different perspectives there are out there. So, if we only read for work, how will we ever know that there might a book out there that could change our life? Or even help us with our work?

Anyone who loves reading knows how important it is to do so. Unfortunately, there are 57 million children worldwide who are not in school. The Global Partnership for Education (GPE) is working hard to change this. We should too and spread the joy of reading to all children. Everyone should be able to have a chance to read, learn, and perhaps write their own stories to share with the world.

What are some of your favorite book quotes that have made an impact on your life? In the words of Malala: "Let us pick up our books and our pens, they are our most powerful weapons". Go connect and share!