My childhood was dominated by reading. I loved enveloping myself in worlds of fantasy—Harry Potter and Percy Jackson were also two of my all-time favorite series—but my absolute favorite book was “Matilda,” by Roald Dahl. Can you blame me? The story centers around a young girl who is so intelligent that she can move objects with her brainpower. I even tried to tap into my psychokinetic abilities for months after the first time I read it.
But it wasn’t just the magic. My eight-year-old self could relate to and empathize with Matilda. It was incredibly inspiring to find a character whose most winning characteristics were her intelligence, kindness and strength. She taught me the validity of not only female intelligence (hats off to you Matilda, my original feminist icon) but of the intelligence of kids.
Books have an undeniable transformative power, and books meant for children are even more impactful. The age at which these lessons and tools are introduced makes them a lot more hard-hitting, even if they aren’t all “academically challenging.” I may have been scorned by my first-grade teacher for only reading “Junie B. Jones” books the entire year, but even those books had an impact: they made me laugh and smile, and that’s just as important.
I don’t know who I’d be today if I hadn’t been shaped by the books I read when I was a kid, and by hearing from these students, I think that sentiment is pretty universal. Happy Read Across America Week! Now close this tab and go read a book.