A couple of months ago, a ten-year-old boy rode his bike to my library. He came in all by himself, a huge smile on his face. Someone had just told him that there was a place where he could take books home for free, and he was eager to get his hands on a new book series his friend had just told him about. As I made him his very first library card, he whispered to me excitedly, “After I get this, I’m going to feel so important.” When I handed him the card he looked at me so proudly that you’d have thought I was handing him the keys to a kingdom, giving him a map of a whole new world. And in a way, I guess I was.
We all know that reading is good for the mind. We want children to become good readers so that they can communicate in the world and be successful. But reading is more than just good for the mind. It’s good for the heart. It’s good for the world.
Kids are still learning so much about themselves. There are still so many experiences they have yet to face. When I was ten, I’d never left the country, I didn’t know many people with lives unlike mine, and I’d never really experienced pain. In a way, books prepared me for the world. In reading about others’ experiences, kids can learn empathy. They can escape to a whole new place. They can read about other parts of the world and see what life is like from another person’s perspective. They can become more caring and compassionate.
Middle grade literature offers kids what they need most: hope. That’s the major reason I love middle grade literature. Some middle grade books can be extremely sad, but the reader is always left on a hopeful note. This is an important thing for a kid, to always see the hope and the goodness in the world. It’s an important thing for everybody.
The ten-year-old boy comes in about once a week now. Once he checks his weekly book out, he sits on the floor in the children’s library and reads for about an hour until it’s time to go home for dinner. I don’t know what home is like for him. I don’t know if he has a difficult life. I don’t know if he’s ever been out of the country or if he knows a lot of different people or if he’s experienced pain in his life. What I do know is that when he reads, his face is thoughtful and calm. And when closes his book and says goodbye to me, he’s always smiling.