Meet some of those who are reading in Liberans Libri this weekend and hear about why they are passionate reading and books.
James McGinnis (director) – Reading is the most accessible way for personal horizons to be expanded beyond the small scopes of our own experiences. Books are written to be read for that very reason. Through non-fiction, we learn about the way things were and the way that things are. Through fiction, we learn about the way that things could have been and the way that things could be. Literature, whether fictional or not, challenges us and enriches us in ways that we might not understand. The freedom to read, therefore, is something that shouldn’t be taken for granted—though it factually is granted to us through our Constitution. That thought stands tall behind “Liberans Libri”; it’s a celebration of our freedom to read and what reading can achieve in our lives. I can assure you that there’s a surplus to celebrate when it comes to books.
Brenda Costa – Reading has the magical power to transport us to different places and times and allow us to hear different voices; that power can help us to see another point of view. When a story or information is shared in a different voice or perspective than our own, it can shape our understanding and opinions. Similarly, if too few details or description are provided, or the material is blatantly untrue, reading has the power to mislead. Reading is usually a personal experience, one person with one book, and that connection can help to filter out all the other noise and voices of society.
Jill Hyatt – Books afford me the opportunity of a glimpse at perspectives and cultures different from my own. Even if I don’t I agree with or enjoy a book, I appreciate learning about others’ real-life experiences and imaginings. Reading builds empathy, something we need more of in today’s world.
Mitchell King – A book that is not written for me holds value because I am not the only person in the world. Everyone deserves to find a book they can engage with, and no one should be restricted from reading a book due to content others might disagree with. There is great power in words, for good and for harm, but it is the prerogative of readers to find the difference.
Vidal Mangal – Growing up, I always felt lonely, isolated and had difficulties connecting with people. My adolescent years were particularly turbulent times, where I dealt with fluctuating hormones and mental illness diagnoses. Reading taught me that I wasn’t alone in these feelings. Like James Baldwin, “books… taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who… had ever been alive.” I didn’t have to go through the horrors of puberty alone when Are You There God, It’s me Margaret was there.
Reading lets me see myself. I’m Black, queer, and the child of two immigrants (from countries where homosexuality is illegal). Being a third culture kid was isolating. Fortunately, I’ve been able to find books with people who looked, spoke, and grew up like me. It’s so important to be able to see myself in the media I consume – not as an afterthought or token of diversity, but at the forefront. Do I belong? Is my voice valuable? Are my feelings normal? Having the freedom to read allows me to answer these questions with a resounding “Yes!”
David Newcombe – To me, freedom is experiencing the world in our own unique ways: the freedom to listen, learn, and experience life without the censorship of others. It’s not the information that’s harmful; rather, it is how we learn to use it that can be. For example, whether you agree or disagree with the message of a book, there is still knowledge to be gained. We can be taught to use knowledge for hate or to help. Personally, reading has challenged and expanded my own spiritual belief system and understanding of the people and cultures around me. It has allowed me to learn and see that we are not all that different.
Deborah Ormston – We will never increase our endurance or build our strength if we keep walking/running the same easily covered distance or lifting the same 5 pound weights. We need to challenge ourselves by going longer distances or lifting heavier weights to achieve our goal. So if we want to improve critical thinking or broaden our world view we should read materials that challenge our beliefs. Cognitive dissonance or ideas that clash with our own is how we grow mentally. We don’t have to agree with everything we read, we may find ourselves thinking “Hmm, I never looked at it that way before”. And we might even change or modify our thinking. Read books that challenge you and you might surprise yourself.
Jess Sakal – Reading expands our world in the most accessible way possible. There’s no ticket cost or new language to learn. It removes the barriers that so many face for experiences, knowledge, and enjoyment in life. It is our chance to see the world and learn from others – sometimes even before we take our first steps. To have that freedom to learn from, grow with, and enjoy stories beyond our own: it’s powerful and it’s necessary.
Tami Shilling – As a former English teacher, I would say that our entire profession depends on books opening our students’ minds and challenging their views. That is the value of books with which we don’t necessarily enjoy or agree.
Katherine Wickert – Reading is an opportunity to explore the world, to learn and experience different perspectives. It allows us to step outside of our belief system without risk, an opportunity to challenge ourselves to grow. That’s not to say you must agree 100% or enjoy everything that you read; chances are you won’t. But by picking up a book that offers a perspective outside the comfort of your norms, you are taking a step towards understanding someone else’s viewpoint, even if you don’t agree with it. And by doing so, you take a step empathizing with your neighbors, friends, co-workers, and community members who may have a point of view or reality different from your own. I think we can all agree, our communities as a whole would benefit from a little more empathy.
Kaycee Wooley -The freedom to read has always been incredibly important to me. Having access to literature has majorly impacted my life. It provided me with access to new ideas, places, and experiences. It inspired empathy in me by taking me into the thoughts of characters that I may not necessarily have experienced or characters that I was unable to relate to. Books provide a safe place and escape for me on those days that life feels difficult. Even the best characters in literature are flawed, even the protagonist is capable of mistakes. Reading helped to shape my life and create the person that I am today, and gave me hope that I am never truly alone. Without the freedom to read I would not be half the person that I am
Keyera Zarembinski – As citizens of the United States, we hear the word freedom thrown around almost daily. However, in regard to our freedom to access literature, we are sorely lacking this right. Our media is constantly displaying the books that our education systems and government deem inappropriate; but what gives them the right to decide what we are able to read? To me, having the freedom to read whatever literature I choose, is synonymous with the freedom to be my true self. We cannot truly call ourselves free if there is a stipulation on what information we are allowed to take in.
Liberans Libri: a book reading
Directed by James McGinnis
Meadville Public Library
848 N. Main St. Meadville, PA
October 6 at 6:00pm
October 7 at 2:00pm