Book lovers have the potential to make school a more compassionate and empathetic place

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Katya Berjawi

Katya Berjawi’s colorful book collection is just one representation of the possibilities in the world of home library organization.

It’s not difficult to imagine a child sneaking their DS or their iPad under the covers after lights out. English teacher Lisa Penninga, however, had an affinity for hiding a different pair of items: a flashlight and a good book. Now, her kids are following the path that she had unknowingly set for them when she was younger. 

Like so many others at FHC, Penninga loves books with her whole being. Through reading, one can learn so many genuinely important concepts about life rather than by simply skimming the internet. There are so many different perspectives to choose from, and that’s part of why reading is so beautiful to the true adorers of the craft. 

“My mom and I would go on these little bookstore dates,” Penninga said. “We would go get coffee and pick out a book for the week, and so I think [reading] has always had a super positive connection for me.”

One of the things that Penninga appreciates about literature is the different perspectives allowed to the reader, especially with more diverse authors from different countries or backgrounds than her own.

Penninga believes, as many do, that more people need to read in order to improve their lives and the well-being of the world as a whole. 

“I think that if more people read, we would have a much more compassionate and empathetic world,” Penninga said. “Every time I read a new book, I see a new perspective. I learn about a new culture or a new time period, and it just really makes you walk in someone else’s shoes.”

I think that if more people read, we would have a much more compassionate and empathetic world. Every time I read a new book, I see a new perspective. I learn about a new culture or a new time period, and it just really makes you walk in someone else’s shoes.”

— Lisa Penninga

Penninga appreciates classic books largely for this reason—especially the ones with romance sprinkled throughout. Although she doesn’t label herself as a “romance-book type of girl,” she always hopes for there to be romance in any book she reads, and the same goes for senior Kyra Thomas. 

Kyra, on the other hand, most definitely does consider herself a “romance-book type of girl,” and she appreciates the classics for what they are, too.

“[The book] has to have romance,” Kyra said. “There has to be romance, or else I don’t want to read it. And [in terms of the classics,] some are bound to be a bit overrated, but they are classics for a reason.”

Reading in any respect can have major impacts on one’s life in regards to stress or any other problem there may be. Finding time to take part in this stress reliever, though, can be difficult. 

With school, work, and all the things going on in the world, it can be demanding of those who enjoy reading, primarily since they often can’t find time to do so.

“[Reading] is a really good stress reliever, but sometimes I don’t have time for it,” Kyra explained. “Sometimes I don’t even want to read because I’m so stressed out during that time. I go in and out of periods where I’m either never reading or reading every single minute.”

Kyra wholeheartedly believes that reading is the ultimate escape from the world. It is a simple way to remove yourself from stress for a while and use the book as a way to forget about real life.

Reading can be used as an escape in countless situations, and it often is. For so many people, including senior Katya Berjawi, escaping into the pages of a good book is never hard to do.

“I like a lot of different genres, so it’s never really specific,” Katya said. “I like characters that you can attach to, or a book that makes you forget that you’re reading.” 

Reading is a healthy form of escapism, and it allows the participant to completely engulf themselves in a fictional world and focus on the lives of the characters—rather than their own lives—for a while. 

Katya’s view on reading has been a constant throughout her life, similar to those of Penninga and Kyra. All of them understand the importance of reading in a growing world. 

“I think [reading] is so important because it helps develop how you view the world,” Katya said. “I look for the history and the continuity of it. [You can tell] books have always been very important to people, but I guess I could understand why some people aren’t really into it.”

A lot of people don’t understand the appeal of books, and that’s okay. Some do understand, but simply don’t partake. And many—like Penninga, Kyra, and Katya—understand the appeal and latch onto it.

Regardless of one’s emotional stance on books, reading is an important thing to do to strengthen the mind and provide insight on different issues.

“I think that everybody should read at least a book [every] month,” Penninga said, “just to help better their mental health, help them sleep better, and become more compassionate and empathetic. It also helps your reading fluency, and if you’re planning on going to college, it will definitely help you become more successful in that area.”