Gene Yang has served for the past two years as the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature. As part of his work in promoting teen and children’s books, he began to speak about the benefits of reading outside the box.
In other words, he has encouraged readers everywhere to explore books about characters who look or live differently than themselves, to read about new topics, and to read in new formats. This national program invites us to celebrate both the diversity within our society and the diversity of reading possibilities.
So what can you do? Why not begin by making this a family-wide challenge? Part of the fun of reading comes from sharing the books with family members or friends. Encourage each other to do one of these things to “Read Without Walls”.
1. Read a book about a character who doesn’t look like you or live like you.
2. Read a book about a topic you don’t know much about.
3. Read a book in a format that you don’t normally read for fun — a chapter book, a graphic novel, a book in verse, or an audio book.
Not sure where to start? Here are some children’s books that would fit one of the categories for me.
For a different format book, I might choose a graphic novel like one of these.
Make 2018 a year for “Reading without Walls” and have fun sharing your reading selections with others. If you need help finding books to fit the categories, just ask at the desk; we love to give suggestions! You can also find more about the reading challenge (including book suggestions) on this web page.
We all have that one book that we read again and again, because it didn’t only change our lives but it stole our hearts as well. I’ve never had this experience with just one book until I read Atonement: By Ian McEwan.
I’d seen the movie first and absolutely fell in love with the characters, mainly because James McAvoy and Keira Knightly brought them to life just so well. When I found out that it was a book, I jumped at the chance to read it. Once I checked the book out, I immediately fell even more in love with the story of Cecilia and Robbie. Mr. McEwan brings the story to life in such a unique and fascinating way that the story engulfed me from beginning to ending.
“There did not have to be a moral. She need only show separate minds, as alive as her own, struggling with the idea that other minds were equally alive. It wasn’t only wickedness and scheming that made people unhappy, it was confusion and misunderstanding, above all, it was the failure to grasp the simple truth that other people are as real as you. And only in a story could you enter these different minds and show how they had an equal value. That was the only moral a story need have.”
This story takes place in 1934, and takes the innocence of thirteen year old, Briony and extends her innocence to levels that we have not yet grasped. Young Briony witnesses a moment of flirtation between her older sister, Cecilia and their servant, Robbie. When Briony’s incomplete grasp of adult motives causes her to tell a lie that tears them apart for years to come. Through carnage and chaos, love and pain, the story follows the repercussions of such a lie.
This book is a masterpiece made of words. Not only does it help you grasp the meaning of life, but it also helps you realize the repercussions of lies and how they can affect everyone involved for the rest of their lives. It captivated me and still remains with me to this day.
“Nothing as singular or as important had happened since the day of his birth. She returned his gaze, struck by the sense of her own transformation, and overwhelmed by the beauty in a face which a lifetime’s habit had taught her to ignore. She whispered his name with the deliberation of a child trying out the distinct sounds. When he replied with her name, it sounded like a new word – the syllables remained the same, the meaning was different. Finally he spoke the three simple words that no amount of bad art or bad faith can ever quite cheapen. She repeated them, with exactly the same emphasis on the second word, as if she had been the one to say them first. He had no religious belief, but it was impossible not to think of an invisible presence or witness in the room, and that these words spoken aloud were like signatures on an unseen contract”
The movie was just as amazing as the book. The characters are brought to life and showed us a side of them we don’t see in the book. The book spoke not only Briony’s thoughts but Cecilia and Robbie’s thoughts as well and helped us understand them more as characters and human beings.