I still remember the excitement vibrating through me as we walked through the school. A perfectly straight line of second graders, teachers admonishing us to get back in line anytime we drifted off. But I didn't heed the warning that day because it didn't matter. It was library day. Nothing was going to bring me down.
Every Tuesday afternoon, we would line up and walk to the school library. I would peer into classrooms as I walked by, excited to learn something outside the pages of a textbook.
Entering the library, I stopped and took a big whiff. Libraries have a certain smell, an enticing fragrance of knowledge and adventure. I ran around the library as fast as my little legs could go. Junie B. Jones, Magic Tree House, Geronimo Stilton. My fingers swept across the spines of books as I carefully examined each book. Twenty minutes. How could any kid peruse thousands of books and pick the right ones in twenty minutes?
Clutching my allotted two books to my chest, I couldn't wait to get home and start reading. I could travel to other worlds without ever leaving my home. Once I started reading, I couldn't be pried away from my books for anything.
From then on, my love for books only grew. As I traversed middle school and high school, I would spend hours at Barnes & Noble, at my local library, and at my school library. I couldn't get enough.
I started reading as a way to understand. There are all types of books out there, books written from multiple perspectives, books written about heroes, books written about villains. The more I read, the more I understood the world.
I may never get the chance to wave a wand and save Hogwarts but I could learn the value of courage in the face of all odds. I may never fight in an arena alongside other teenage tributes but I could learn what it means to stand up for what you believe in. I may never go on a journey like Odysseus but I could understand the importance of returning home.
Because ultimately, it's about the stories. The stories that shape who we are and how we understand the world. The stories that can be applied to our own lives. Every time I pick up a book, I see the world a little differently. My eyes are opened to a world beyond my own bubble. I can travel to the stars or just down the street but regardless, every book leaves a mark. As I turn the pages, the words float off the page and embed themselves in my mind.
Every time I pick up a book, I inhale the scent of knowledge and let it flow through me. Every time I pick up a book, I am humbled that there is still so much I do not know. Every time I pick up a book, I'm back in that library, a giddy second-grader eager to explore and understand the world.