This week I had the opportunity to help a school in Washington DC purchase books for their library. You can help, too. Ballou Senior High School was chosen as this year's Guys Lit Wire Book Fair recipient. The neat part about this project is you can go directly to a wish list the students created so you know exactly what they want. At the end of this blog, I'll post the link.
I felt drawn to this particular cause not only because I'm a writer, but because books have played an important role in my life since early childhood. I’ve loved books, the smell of books, and the hush of the library for as long as I can remember. In junior high, I worked in the school library. Shelving books was no fun, but having first shot at new arrivals and reading when there was no work to be done was great.
A well stocked library throughout my school years provided me with more than a way to pass the time. Books facilitated an escape from the awkward days of adolescence. They revealed possibilities I didn't know existed in life. Some stories made me feel I wasn’t alone in my thoughts or struggles. And sometimes they helped me to realize my life wasn’t so bad after all when compared to the troubles the protagonist faced. I can’t imagine attending a school that is unable to afford books the students want or need.
5 Reasons I Love Books
1. Travel on a budget - You can go anywhere in the world, usually for under $10, or even for free. My favorite place to visit is China, and maybe some day I'll have the chance to visit for real. In the meantime, I can indulge in Amy Tan's novels for a China fix. Even more incredible than world travel is the ability to visit different time periods. But wait, why stop with time travel when you can explore outer space and worlds that exist in our imaginations? Has anyone been to Hogwarts lately?
2. Connecting with others - As a teen, my best friend and I traded Sweet Valley High books and talked about writing our own series. (Okay. That was probably more me.) One of my former patients, who happened to be in her 80s, turned me on to Confessions of a Shopaholic, and I in turn passed it on to my sister-in-law, mother and mother-in-law. There is a bond forged through a common love for a story. I enjoy listening to others discuss books they have read and what they liked or disliked about the stories. Perfect strangers can engage in a lively discussion just from the mention of a particular book.
3. Imagining the possibilities – Creativity greases the wheels of our minds. You don’t have to write, paint, compose or any of those artsy things. Simply enjoying a book can help you view events differently and thereby create room for flexibility in your thinking. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say flexibility is one of the most useful qualities you can have. Nurture it. When you are flexible, you can see solutions to problems that weren’t visible before.
4. Universality of the human condition – We all feel alone at some points in life. How refreshing to learn others have been through, or are currently going through, similar situations. Sometimes that’s all we need to give us hope.
5. Improving the quality of communication - Reading increases your vocabulary without having to study. Most words can be understood by the context, and repeatedly encountering certain words builds familiarity. This will only improve your written communications whether your writing is mostly business related or emails. In turn, you verbal communications should improve as well, excluding the moment when you get The Call. Then you turn into a babbling idiot who couldn’t possibly have written a 90,000 word novel since you can’t string two words together that make any sense.
What do you love about books, and what is one of your favorite titles from your teen years?
If you would like to help the students of Ballou Sr High, please visit: http://bit.ly/GLWBookFair
Ship books to –
Melissa Jackson, LIBRARIAN
Ballou Senior High School
3401 Fourth Street SE
Washington DC 20032