In fourth grade, I got to choose a book from the school library for free reading time. I pulled up my sleeves in anticipation, fingering each book on the shelf that had an interesting title, a popular author, or a colorful cover. My teacher, a stern-looking woman with short, sandy blonde hair, must have thought I was struggling to find an appropriate book, so she picked one out for me. Instead of a Judy Blume or Laura Ingalls Wilder book that my classmates were reading, she brought over a picture book about American history. My English wasn’t that good yet since I had immigrated to the U.S. just two years before, but a picture book was written for a much younger reader. My face flushed red, realizing that the teacher did not believe I could read, even though my English was improving daily.
“Your English will get better if you read this!” she barked, handing me the picture book.
I fidgeted not knowing what to do, upset with her low estimation of my reading ability, but knowing I was supposed to respect my teacher. All I could say at that moment was “Thank you,” and bowed reflexively. The teacher nodded with a smug smile, as if she had just done me a huge favor. I took the book home and never opened it.
By choosing not to read the book my teacher thought I should read, I felt powerful. It taught me that I had a choice in what to read, and not everyone had that choice. Since then, libraries have transformed my life. They have empowered me by providing free access to books, information, and knowledge. I felt safe and included every time I walked into a library. It filled my soul.
I am grateful that libraries have become a big part of my life again. As part of November’s National Novel Writing Month, I have spent almost every day at the library revising my novel. I see “regulars” who read the newspaper in the same spot day after day, children giggling during Story Time, and students gathering in study rooms. Patrons are busy using the free computers, browsing the community art exhibit, or attending an opera talk. As a trustee for my library district, I am proud to safeguard the library as a community hub and a place of lifelong learning by helping steward the finances and make decisions that ensure the library serves the people.
I realize that I’ve been searching all my life for a place like this, and it’s always been here. It’s like coming home this Thanksgiving, and I’m so happy to belong here.
Do you remember a moment that books or libraries changed your life? Where is your happy place? Leave a comment below.
Here are a few fun photos at various library and literary events. I will be riding in the Annual Palos Verdes Peninsula Holiday Parade of Lights on December 7, 2019 from 6-7:30 pm representing the library district. I will also be attending the PVLD Writing Month Anthology Reading on Saturday, January 18th from 3-5 pm at the Peninsula Center Library. And join me as the community marches in a Suffragette reenactment parade for the Women’s Suffrage Centennial in March 2020. Here is a link to the PVLD website so you can read about all these wonderful events and so much more.
Thank you to each and every one of you for following me on my journey this year. There will be more to come in 2020. Happy Thanksgiving and Happy Holidays to all!