What Do You Imagine Better?
Imagine a world full of people who could read.
I used to think that everyone knew how to read… until a fateful summer after my first year in college. I became an ESL tutor that year, a role that is so much more than the job description. I realized that there were adults in my community, close to 18% of the people to be exact, that could not read English. How. Astounding. How incredible that a thing so natural to me as breathing, eating, sleeping was not even a possibility to other people. That summer, my students discovered numbers, vegetables, smells, and names written on signs, in stores, atop of shelves, and in crevices as if the world was including them in its veiled secrets. Can you imagine seeing the transformative power of words in such a way? I can imagine better.
Imagine a world full of enough books to fill each small child.
I remember getting my first library card – man, was I a big kid then. That was the first time I can remember feeling independent and like I won the lottery – kind of like Harry’s first time flying a broom. It was as if all the books in the world were mine for the reading. And did I want to start cracking them open one by one right then and there. However, I know that so many children are not as lucky. Schools, homes, and libraries are underfunded, underwhelmed, and short-staffed to produce even a few books for the children. I have learned that without this early development, children will not learn to read or take up the habit of reading easily. Without the actual resources to loan books, children will have no way to learn independently. Can you imagine if every child could have a favorite book? I can imagine better.
Imagine a world full of librarians, researchers, teachers, and parents who could read to children everyday.
Reading was team effort for me most of my life. My parents read with me, my teachers read with me, my friends and siblings read with me – everyone was constantly reading to me and with me that I began to devour books. I loved scratch and sniff books or books where I could feel the big bad wolf and the little pigs. I loved hearing my father laugh like the Grinch and my 5th grade teacher’s British accent. Even in high school my teacher emotionally acted out Shakespeare’s sonnets and my college professors sang ballads in class. Without help, it is impossible to learn and sustain the very act of reading. Not everyone has the luxury to have amazing adults and other in their life willing to take the time to read with them. Imagine a room full of reading pairs. I can hear the sounding out of words and giggling already. Yet, I can still imagine better.
There is one particularly powerful moment in my life when I thought: Oh, this is what better means. I was on a plane flying to do service work with thirty other high school classmates. The plane was packed and it happened to be two days after book 7 of HP came out. My whole class had either read it or was reading it on the plane – not too surprising since everyone was extremely bookish and into pop culture. However, I looked up to find a strange sight: every single person in every single row was reading it as well. I blinked, rubbed my eyes, even tried to jiggle myself awake in order to explain what I saw. But this was actually real – this was a plane full of people reading. Of course, the fact that it was Harry Potter made it all the more exciting. However, never in my life have I seen a group of people from various backgrounds, age levels, and professions read so intently- and for pleasure!- in the real world. It was lifechanging.
In JK Rowling’s commencement speech at Harvard, she said that failure and imagination are two of the most important things for those going out to tackle the world. We have the power to imagine better for our world – and, we have the power to do better. The Equality FTW campaign is so extremely important because it funds those campaigns and projects that do just that – they not only imagine, but they do. Consider if you want to be a part of this imagining by volunteering, donating, or both – and, if you want to work to make our world a better place.
What do you imagine better?