By Sarah Cassell, Social Media Manager

Read Across America. World Read Aloud Day. Drop Everything and Read Week. All of these events hold a special place in my heart.

The daughter of an elementary school teacher, I was always a book lover. But it was during one magical reading week  that I discovered books could take you places--both literally and figuratively.

I can still remember my awe and wonder when I walked into class and discovered my teacher, Ms. Miller, transformed the room into a big-top circus.  Streamers of every color hung from the center of the room and were draped to form the canopy of our tent top.

Every day that week, Ms. Miller would read aloud a circus-themed book. Sitting inside this pretend tent, I felt like I was inside the story. It’s a wonderful moment when you could become so entranced with the world within the book, you feel as though you’re right there beside the protagonists.

That’s one of the things I love about Read Across America. Through creative activities and events, we can invite young readers to not only explore the physical pages of a book, but to become part of the worlds they build. To use their imagination. To “travel” and “meet” new places and people. Studies show that avid readers  tend to become more empathetic adults--because they’ve had the opportunity to “moccasin” or walk in others’ shoes through the stories they’ve read. 

Some of the greatest life lessons I’ve learned have been from books:

Leigh Botts (Dear Mr. Henshaw) taught me that I wasn’t alone in my painful longing for a father who was present and engaged in his children’s lives.

Winnie Foster (Tuck Everlasting) taught me that to live life to its fullest, one must actually, well, live. You can’t be afraid to see and to explore the world beyond your back yard.

Severus Snape (Harry Potter series) taught me that we are all complex emotional beings, that there is room for good in everyone.

Ella of Frell (Ella Enchanted) taught me I have the power to solve my own problems. If I was strong enough and smart enough, I could master whatever obstacles life through my way.

Every time you take the time to read aloud or to share your favorite book with a fellow reader, you’re offering them a passport. A safe place to meet new people, explore ideas they might not otherwise encounter.

As volunteers and our AmeriCorps members nationwide celebrate #ReadAcrossAmerica and #wrad, I can’t help feeling excited for the students. Who knows, there might be another student who is transported, for the first time, into the story you’re reading.

Enjoy reading this article? You might also enjoy:

How Reading Literature Cultivates Empathy (Edutopia) 

Focusing on Literacy This Month at Ketcham Elementary School (City Year D.C.)

Parker-Varney Literacy Night (City Year New Hampshire)

Why We Can't Live Without Books In Pictures and Words 

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