Reading bed time stories.

December 31, 2009
The boy crinkles his nose in response to the smell of the musty, antique odor from the well-worn book, the faded title of Harry Potter enscripted on the cover. The little boy, ten years old at most, sits on the couch and begins to read the book. He is lost in his own world, in a world of wizardry, sorcery, and magic. Two, three, four, five hours fly by; the boy refuses to even eat dinner, refuses to even lift his eyes for a second from the book. He reads until he is finished, until the hunger of not food but imagination is nourished. He sets the book down and glances at the clock. It's past 1 o'clock and there's no time to ask his parents for dinner. He goes into the kitchen to fix himself a midnight snack.

Ever since I was a child, I remembered how much I loved reading. Reading was a stimulant; a positive outlet in which I can express my imagination and journey into an uncharted world of a book. Born as a second generation South Korean, I was raised in an environment in which my parents struggled to settle in the American culture. My parents were awkward, strange, and different. Their limitations as immigrants impacted me; often as a child, I was alone, quiet, introverted. Growing up in a household where I was forbidden to speak English, it was a struggle to understand fully the meaning in the words of the books I read. I yearned to understand the depth of the books I read but the words challenged me, almost taunting me that, like my parents, I wouldn't be able to overcome the situation I was placed in. But I worked hard. Every week, I went to the library to check out new books. Towers of unread books that came home every Monday became a scattered rubble of accomplishment by Friday afternoons. Slowly, but surely, I became a better reader. Pretty soon, I was the fastest reader in the class. People would look at me in amazement as they saw me read 500 page books in a matter of days. But I believe the greatest accomplishment was reading every night to my parents. Every evening, we sat down together in our dimly lighted living room, and I read to them; the irony of the fact that I was never read bedtime stories and read such stories to my parents. Like a wizard chanting from his bible of witchery, I too read aloud to my parents, casting the spell that harnessed the magic of another language. And slowly, but surely, our vocabulary grew. My parents were finding it easier to communicate with others; for me, grammar quizzes became a breeze.

Today a boy sits down on his bed and opens up Brave New World. It's his second time re-reading it. His mother knocks on the door, asking in tolerable English what he would like for dinner. That boy is proud to have Asian-American parents who were patient enough to learn English from a young boy, and who were wise enough to teach their son to read at a young age. Today, that boy wants to pursue his interest in literacy a step further. He wants to one day become a journalist and journey to Africa to teach the impoverished villagers and children how to read and speak English. He wants to give the gift of literacy to others like he had given to his parents.

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