Today’s guest post about the importance of books is by author and teacher Lorca Damon (YA novel The Earth is for Dancing). I so understand the escape a novel can bring, the way Lorca talks about. Take it away, Lorca!
You’re right. They just sit there. They don’t play music or stream YouTube videos. They don’t even beep, although they do make a thudding noise if you throw them on the floor. But for the price of a book, someone who is hurting can be transported to a place away from the pain, loss, and hopelessness, even if it’s just for a little while. For my students, books represent a whole other dimension.
My students are between the ages of nine and eighteen years old, and they are in jail. For them, books take on a whole new meaning: choice. When you go to jail, there are no choices. THIS is the jumpsuit you will put on, including these previously worn socks and underwear. THIS is the cell you will live in, even though it is ten feet by twelve feet and has only a cot and a toilet. THIS is when you will eat, when you will shower, when you will exercise, when you will make a phone call. THIS is how many sheets of paper you can have in your cell, THIS is how you will walk in line. There are no choices.
Except the books.
In our jail, we have a gorgeous library filled with books on a wide range of subjects. To the teachers and the staff, the library represents taking pride in our facility and using our funds wisely. To the youth, it represents being able to make one choice, four days a week. Just that once, they can run their fingers along the spines, read the back covers, and find something to read without anyone telling them what to do or how to do it.
I would have to argue that all teenagers are in jail. No matter where they live or what they have or have not done, there is so little choice in their lives. THIS is where you will go to school. THIS is when you will wake up and go to sleep. THIS is the nice neat little box that your peers have decided you fit into, even if it’s not the box you wanted.
So go to the library. Run your fingers along the spines, smell the pages like I used to do when I thought no one was looking. Read every back cover until you know which one you want to read. Take it home, and escape.
Lorca Damon is a teacher and YA author. Her debut novel, The Earth is for Dancing, is available from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Kobo. Her second title, Driving the Demon, is due out in May 2013 from Winter Goose Publishing.