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Reader Not A Writer This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

I was never an avid reader. I was always the kid that would rather watch television, play computer games, or get in trouble with my siblings. It’s not that I couldn’t read at all, rather that I didn’t understand the motives behind it. What would possess somebody to sit behind a book for hours on end, doing the most utterly boring thing there is to do when you’re ten years old? I just didn’t understand. As a result, I struggled with reading and writing comprehension all through elementary school. I went to special attention classes, read lower level books, and kept daily journals. While all of this was intended to spark an interest in reading, it did the opposite. From then on I associated reading with work, dread, and getting separated from my class for an hour a day, every day during the week.

It wasn’t until around fourth grade that I finally started easing into the comforts of literature. It was then that we were assigned book reports for the first time. The system was fairly standard: we read short chapter books, alternating genres with each one, than wrote an essay about them, as you do with typical book reports. Only, these weren’t just projects to me, I worked relentlessly all month, composing the best book report I could muster up with my severely limited skillset. With each genre we were assigned, I stalked the library shelves, seeking out the shortest, most transparent book I could find, barely passing the line into chapter books; I read these religiously, never stepping out of my boundaries into books that had no pictures in the margins or kiddie cover art.

I slid through these assignments with C and D letter grades, never thinking I could do better, until I chose to stay in the library during recess, hiding from the unforgiving frozen jungle gym. That’s when I found a book unlike any book I’ve read before. There was no singsong heading, no playful cover, and there were more than one hundred pages. The book was titled Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls. On the cover there was a boy holding a lantern in the woods and two dogs. I don’t know how I found the book, or why it was so fascinating, but I checked it out that day and tore through it in one night. Was the language that kept me captivated? Or the notion of the story that moved me so much? I’ve read it many times over since, and I’m proud to say that such a classic piece of literature was the first book I ever cared enough to cry over when I finally finished reading.

It was while reading Where the Red Fern Grows that I discovered the influence reading can have on a person. There’s something incredibly enthralling about putting words and thought together, in synch with the thousands of others who’ve read the same book and experienced the same emotions. Whether its joy, grief, or frustration, words have an astounding impact on their readers; a sentiment I couldn’t comprehend while stuck reading thirty page beginner books about cows saying moo. I chose to write a book report on Where the Red Fern Grows that month, I wrote a gripping essay, and made a shoebox diorama of the cover scene. It was the first school assigned project that I was exceedingly proud of. It was that same warm feeling of satisfaction that lead me all the way through an intricate presentation of my project, and a compelling recital of my essay. But feeling quickly drifted away when I got my grade back a week later. Ironically, I had chosen a book in the wrong genre.

Although I was devastated at the moment from this minor obstacle, I quickly bounced back from the failure. I realized that even though I had overlooked one aspect of the assignment, I discovered a treasure that wasn’t even hidden. Reading, to me, isn’t about intellectual prowess. It’s about living one hundred lives through the stories and musings of others. It’s about finding something about yourself in something as simple as a piece of paper and being moved by it. Reading is an act of empathy. It’s looking through a window into the mind of another, and whether or not you gain from it is truly up to you. The scenery though these windows are beautiful, and I find myself asking; was I born on the wrong side?



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