If you were to visit my elementary school playground between my 3rd and 6th grade years you could find a gawky, quiet group of girls sitting up against the wire fence, all doing the same thing. They were severe and focused and could not be bothered to kick a ball or run in circles. Or so it may have seemed to anyone watching. Really it wasn't that these girls disliked playing during recess, it was just that they enjoyed what they did much more. Each would carry their chosen book outside and after a minute or two of animated conversation they would settle down into their most comfortable spots. The next twenty to thirty minutes were spent reading, losing the world around them until their teacher blew her whistle.
Today when I look back at my recesses in elementary school, these moments are all I can remember of them. I’m a little ashamed to admit that I am not able to compare elementary school stories of soccer or even tag games on the wood-chip playground floor. But my friends and I spent recess reading not because we disliked playing with our peers, but simply because we found the lives of our characters so interestingly different from our own. It fascinated us that people could create characters and plots in the way a mother’s body could create a child. We may have not verbalized it, being so young, but following the journey of those in our books was a game all on its own.
Mystery books were filled with suspense, little romance novels made us wonder, and action themed books gave us the fast paced lifestyle we were missing out on. When Lucy, the protagonist in one of my 3rd grade books added too much corn to the kettle and filled up her family’s kitchen with popcorn and her impatience, I learned the importance of patience myself. When I readCooper Sun in sixth grade, I began to understand the feeling of empathy. When I examined The Giver, I began asking questions about myself and the human condition. You see, all those words I had read have made more of an impact on the way I am today; more so than any of the events that have happened in all of my “glorious” teenage years. Much of my curiosity and disposition have been influenced by characters that came out of other people’s heads. Thus, I’d like to think that some of my most cherished personality traits were nurtured through these books. Most people know the cliché about learning from one’s past and all of that. In this same way I have learned from past stories, books with names I can’t even remember anymore. They have left with me a bit of their wisdom, and for this I’ll forever be grateful.