Amy Yao, Duke ’13, member of Duke Community Leadership Project team
I’ve been luck growing up with teachers who’ve encouraged a love for reading since a young age. When I first came to the States in second grade, I hardly knew any English at all. Starting school was a scary experience because I didn’t know anyone and communication was difficult. My parents couldn’t help much because they were recent immigrants as well.
I remember our class’s first trip to the school library. I think I might have been a bit in awe of all the books (my school back in China didn’t have a library). I loved the picture books especially and read as many as I could. I was too young to realize it at the time, but reading was gradually helping me pick up new words, even if it was just in bits and pieces here and there.
Slowly, I was able to proceed to chapter booklets and eventually longer novels. By the time third grade rolled around, I was perfectly confident in my English speaking and reading skills, which by that point were more or less on par with that of my classmates. It would have been so much harder to catch up to everybody had books not played such a huge role in my life at that stage. My writing ability also increased along with my reading comprehension skills. Therefore, I would accredit much of my academic foundation to reading, as it provided a solid base to branch out from.
Not only that, I think books also provide exposure to a wide range of people – both through the characters and their motives, and through the authors and the way they think and plot their way through a novel. And of course, books also provide that occasional escape from the hassles and frantic pace of daily life, when you can just sink into in a different world entirely and let your imagination play.
That’s why I’m so excited to be working with Book Harvest NC this semester for our project. I think books truly do make a difference when children are able to access them from a young age. I hope Book Harvest will continue helping to make a difference amongst new generations of young readers for many years to come.