By KYLE VICTOR JOSE
To paraphrase a proverb, “Show me what books you read and I will tell you who are.” I believe that books exist not only to communicate and to record the circumstances of the time but also to invite the reader to enter into the world of ideas and the world of imagination.
Books can influence, books can transcend lives, and books can open eyes. We are who we are and we are who we become because of how books’ contents reflect our lives. Reading can be so influential that it can revolutionize ideas, lifestyles, behaviors, and attitudes. The words live and breathe in people every single day they unconsciously become those words.
Who would have known that a book written by Plato or Aristotle would influence the world? Who would have known that the Lord of the Rings would be so popular in the contemporary world when it is rich with the mythology, morality, and languages of its own time? All these things affect people’s lives in a collective way that they can never be the persons they were before reading books.
I live in a household filled with hundreds of books from different genres like history, science, philosophy, psychology, and some fiction. I grew up in a place where my uncles had access to encyclopedias and old National Geographic magazines with pictures I used for my high school projects. Like my grandparents who raised me, I spend time in bookstores perusing books and whenever I see something I really love I would buy it, read it, and keep it. I now have my own library of almost a hundred books.
I see literature as a dynamic process that goes beyond the limits of time and space in which creativity is fully fostered to help the authors and the readers know and understand the world around them while, at the same time, getting to know and understand themselves more. Reading can enable people to live more than a thousand lives in so short a time.
There is one book in particular that has helped me in my journey as a person—The Freedom Writers Diary by Erin Gruwell and her students. This book not only encouraged me to be a good writer just like how Anne Frank inspired Gruwell’s students. It also helped me understand personal and social issues such as family problems and racism that are even more relevant to our time. Erin Gruwell empowered them with the art of the pen to assert themselves at a time when they were disadvantaged, an educational reform and cathartic self-expression in the form of a literary revolution.
Reading the students’ entries, I found myself in their shoes while lessons from history reflected their struggles as individuals of different races in the same school. I understood what they were going through as if they were talking to me like their friend. This motivated me to become a diarist and a poet myself. This also drove my willingness to help other people who, like those students, are psychologically in need.
Reading helps me understand the world around me better than I can on my own. Books are like friends—they keep people company in their solitude. They may even be a cure for loneliness.
I read books to help me with my personal and intellectual development. Access to literature should not be a privilege. It is an inherent right of every individual to read for the sake of human existence and the culture we so quintessentially embody.