I grew up in a small country farm in Puerto Rico a long time ago. We had to walk for at least one hour to get to the city to attend school because the country school only went up to the 6th grade and most of the parents wanted their children to attend school at the city. The school building in the city held all the grades: from 1st to 12. Needless to say, we did not have a library nor did we hear about one. I did not know that there was such a thing. The only books we read were the text books provided to us in school. Our teachers were not able to provide us with additional reading materials. Reading other than the class text books was just not encouraged.
At the age of 12, my grandmother with whom I lived, moved to Massachusetts to stay with one of her sons. Upon enrolling in school, I was demoted two grades because I did not speak English. I was heartbroken! My 6th grade teacher, Mrs. Boardway, made sure that her students borrowed books to read from the school library. Each student in the class had to read one book per week and submit a book report. We were given a star for every book we read. I don’t quite remember what we did with those stars but I kept reading because I liked to get stars. They looked pretty on my notebook. Next to the school, there was a public library. It is still there today. I would go to the library and spend hours browsing the book racks and borrowed books which were easy to read. As my reading skills improved so did the content in the selection of books I chose.
The books opened locked doors for me. I saw people and visited places around the world which I felt at the time that I would never meet nor see. I enjoyed reading all kind of books. I also enjoyed watching the people read as they were seated on the big chairs in the library. They fascinated me. I had a voracious appetite for reading. I knew that someday it would pay off somehow. But at that time I did not know how. The more I read, the more words I learned. I continuously used the newly learned words as I spoke with my teachers and other people. My reading skills improved greatly and so did my spoken English. I loved using the new words I learned. I felt “smart”.
I made sure that my children went to the library and read all sorts of books as they grew up and they in turn encourage their children to do the same. Today, as I work with my students I encourage them to go to the library and read on a regular basis regardless of their reading skills and spoken language.
That is how the library changed my life.