Surrounded By Books


By Alia Hammerstone

One of the most vivid, tangible memories I have as a child is growing up surrounded by books. They were omnipresent- lining the bookshelves in my grandparent’s home, stacked on my desk as a child, crowding dressers in my parent’s bedroom. My grandparents loved nonfiction; scores of their books were political in nature and introduced me to the 1960s and the founding fathers. My mother loves fiction; historical fiction, fantasy, mystery- you name it. Book fairs were a treasured event as a student and were supported with enthusiasm by my parents. I remember book logs with fondness- they marked not only my voracious appetite for reading but a collection of conversations I had with my parents and teachers alike.

Growing up, my mother encouraged my siblings and me to read and lead by example. Despite our age difference, I remember curling up in our family room with my three younger siblings and her reading aloud to us. We sat, transfixed, as she read the series to us- I must have been almost a senior in high school sitting side-by-side with my younger siblings enamored with the story, and my mother’s love of literature. We spent hours together as a family, listening to the stories and building lifelong memories.

One of my favorite books is To Kill a Mockingbird. I remember being in sixth grade, and my mother recommended it to me- it was, after all, one of her favorites, too. I have that same book still; the corners are a bit bent and torn, and the name on the inside cover reflects my middle-school scrawl. The beginning of the novel drew me in from the first page- who was this rapscallion of a girl who romped around town with her brother and friend? What fountain of dignity did her father draw from? Who were these people with unique names and circumstances? Atticus inspired me with his unflappable conscious; he stood as a fictional figure who guided my thoughts on social justice. Scout inspired me with her courage and curiosity; she stood as a fictional figure who guided my thoughts on what family and friendship truly mean. Honestly, I think my passion for equality and a more just world stems from my early experiences with injustices solely brought to my attention through the lens of Harper Lee. To this day, I reread the novel from time to time, savoring in the storyline and learning something new each time. A favorite book is like an old, familiar friend- one you can reminisce with as well as grow with over time.

Flash forward to the present – where I have books lining the shelves of my home, stacked on my desk at work, and crowding dressers in my own bedroom. There are books I received as gifts, carefully inscribed, books I have inherited from family, books I have swapped with friends, and even books I have stored away for my own children someday. I know that my family’s love of literature has indelibly shaped my own passion, and inspires me to continue working with A to Z in spreading the joy of reading.

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