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2012 Jefferson Essay

by Grace Joseph

Grace Joseph

For much of my early childhood, Wednesday was my favorite day of the week. Wednesday meant that my mom and I would drive to town, visit my dad at his office – where there never failed to be cookies – and go to the library for Story Time. I would get lost in the worlds created by the stories read by the librarian, I would shyly participate in the songs and exercises, and I would sign my name with an exclamation point on the back of my craft project. The hour always seemed to go by too quickly.

Now it is more than a decade later, and during the summer I still go to the library on Wednesdays for Story Time. I still listen to the stories and do the songs, exercises, and crafts. However, now I do it as an assistant instead of as a preschooler. I help select stories, lead the exercises, explain the craft, and keep the children from eating the glue. I will forever enjoy and cherish my memories at the library, and if I can help spark one child’s imagination the way mine was, then I have done my job. I truly believe that a love of stories is one of the best lessons that can be taught to a child and that opening the heart and the imagination through books will lead to a kinder and more accepting world. At their core, books teach empathy as the reader relates to the characters. On Wednesdays I see a room full of young children connecting to each other and to books, forming friendships with the characters and their fellow listeners. This, to me, is beautiful.

As a senior nearing the end of high school, I am coming up on what is likely to be the last summer that I can spend volunteering at the town library. Come August, I will be packing my bags and heading south to Orange, where I will be studying screenwriting at Chapman University’s Dodge College of Film and Media Arts. What drew me to this particular program is the emphasis that is put on storytelling; I will be moving from introducing children to stories to creating stories of my own. For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to share my stories with an audience, hopefully inspiring a change in some. In my experience, some people bully what they are unfamiliar with. If something is seen as foreign or strange, it can immediately pull a person past his comfort level, resulting in his survival skills kicking in – eat or be eaten. My goal is to help eliminate prejudices and fears against unknowns through my writing. I would love to be able to introduce my audience to worlds that they may otherwise not know. I believe that exposing people to others unlike themselves can result in a more tolerant world. Tearing down the wall that keeps people from fully embracing others would ultimately lead to less hate.

I am currently preparing to leave the only home I have ever known, hoping to find my niche in the world. I carry with me the love of books and of learning that Story Time helped to instill in me, and when I visit home and return to the library, I know that I will still see a small redheaded girl sitting in the corner of the children’s room, her nose buried in a book with her name and an exclamation point written in the inside cover.