On a recent trip to the laundromat, I reflected upon how even the most mundane errand requires more of us these days. Once I would have shown up with my dirty clothes and a book to pass the time; now I come armed with added essentials: my mask, hand sanitizer, my vaccine card. The Omicron variant is running rampant, in tandem with surging pandemic fatigue. Adults and children alike are tired of living in a scary COVID-19 world. Thankfully, there is a ready escape. 

As a team member of the Children’s Literacy Foundation, and an impassioned writer, the importance of both reading and writing is more apparent to me than ever. In a world filled with stress and uncertainty, stories can provide a necessary reprieve. Over the last few months alone, we at CLiF have sent out almost 6,000 books across Vermont and New Hampshire, while serving thousands of children with opportunities to get lost in the magic of reading and writing. 

Children everywhere are going through a coming of age unlike any other. Rising infection rates, mask mandates, vaccinations and boosters are the buzzwords of their daily lives. The world may feel dangerous and confusing. Reading lets them leave all of that behind. 

Stepping into a good story is like walking through a portal into another world. What does this place look like to you? Who does the character sound like? What do you hear, see, smell, feel? Reading and writing stretches muscles most kids–and adults, for that matter–don’t know they have. Not only do they use their imagination, they’re able to see and learn more about the world around them through the lens of a good story. Stories force you to think, learn, and empathize, because of the pure, imaginative energy that fuels them. Readers can be whomever they want to be, wherever they choose to go–anytime, anywhere.

For me, writing does the same. As a writer, nothing fills my time better than sitting down and writing a chapter, a scene, an outline. By crafting new worlds, I lose myself in my own imagination. I’m able to put myself in the shoes of people I’ve never met, see places no one has ever thought of, and expand my world-view, all from the comfort of my own mind.

If you’re feeling in need of an escape, visit your local bookstore or library and pick up a new book. Get one for your kids. Maybe try your hand at writing stories of your own. In a time where we’re so closed off, sharing stories is one of the greatest ways to connect with others. You’ll be amazed how much fun you’re having, and how large the world starts to feel.

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