Sometimes we get letters from young people about their love for reading. Today we're sharing a letter from Kassie Berger, the daughter of Tracey Berger, Scholastic' Book Fair's VP of Online Services and eBusiness Operations.
Tracey joined Scholastic when Kassie was just three years old. Today, Kassie is 21, so it's safe to say she grew up on Scholastic -- so much so that she penned an essay about it. We asked her permission to repost it here.
Thanks for these magical words, Kassie.
My lifelong love affair with books and reading began at home, long before I even started school. Books were abundant in my household; it seemed like every night, my mom brought home another stack of books for my siblings and me. There was always a collection laying on the coffee table, on my mom’s nightstand, the kitchen counter, and even in the bathroom. Our bookshelves seemed to be overflowing.
At night, my mom would always read to my brother and me before we went to sleep, bringing to life the words we didn’t know just yet. On long car trips, she’d pull out our Scholastic Dictionary for Kids and quiz us on word definitions. If she wasn’t reading to us, she was off in another world reading on her own. Reading took us on unforgettable journeys together, from Neverland in Peter and the Starcatchers, to the fields of Alagaësia in Eragon.
Once I started school, I fell in even deeper. In class, my teachers were always yelling at me for not paying attention. But I wasn’t doodling or writing notes — I had my nose in a book. By fourth grade, I was at a college reading level and had read what felt like every book in the library. I had perfected the art of walking and reading. The precious five minutes between classes became prime time for reading just a few extra pages.
When the Book Fair came to school, I felt like the coolest kid around, boasting how my mom had the coolest job. And just like everyone else, I rushed around the Book Fair writing down as many titles as I could for my wish list.
Unlike the other kids in school though, I didn’t see Scholastic only twice a year at the Book Fair or bring a book club catalog home every once in a while. I went where the magic happened. Walking through the front doors was like entering a fantasyland. A kooky old lady with the warmest heart would promptly greet me. She’d open up her treasure chest of books and let me pick out whichever one I wanted (if I was lucky, maybe even two!). In my eyes, Miss Faith was my fairy godmother of reading.
As we walked through the halls on the way to my mom’s office, I would admire the book posters that lined the hallways. While she worked, I’d go down to the Lending Library and pick out a book...or five, and spend the rest of the day living in another world. At the end of the day, she’d take me to the warehouse, where I’d stare in admiration at the floor-to-ceiling shelves of nothing but books. During the big sale events, I would spend hours and hours deciding which books I needed most.
My heroes were the characters in my books and the brilliant minds behind them. I wasn’t waiting for the next Backstreet Boys album to come out, but the next release of Alice Hoffman’s newest book. While my friends couldn’t wait to meet their favorite TV stars, my dream was to meet my favorite author: Kate DiCamillo. Because of Scholastic, I not only met her, but I sat on her lap as she signed my personal copy of The Tale of Despereaux.
When the final Harry Potter book was about to be released, my whole family flew up to Scholastic headquarters in New York City to celebrate. The street behind the building was transformed into Diagon Alley, and everyone was dressed in his or her black robe with wand in hand. At midnight, the highly anticipated moment finally came. One by one, we all received our very own copy of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. We were all then invited to settle into a conference room for as long as we liked to read the much-awaited ending to our favorite story. As I looked around the room, filled with dozens of other kids with their noses in their freshly printed books, I felt at home. Everyone there was just like me. They all loved their books; they all loved reading.
As I grew older, Scholastic became part of my life in a different way; my very first job was with Scholastic the summer after I graduated from high school. I loved it so much that I ended up coming back for two more years during my college breaks. I worked in nearly every department, helping marketing with photo shoots, communications with meeting prep, online services with image optimization, and product with organizing the sample Book Fair in the warehouse. No matter what I did, or with whom I was working, one thing was apparent: everyone believed in Scholastic’s mission and had a genuine passion for reading. I could never thank enough all of the mentors I had there for everything they taught me and the life lessons I carry with me today.
I’ve cried, I’ve laughed, and I’ve fallen in love. I’ve felt some of the heaviest sorrows and the greatest joys. I’ve traveled to every continent and ocean on this planet and places you can only reach through the pages of a book.
Reading has instilled in me a passion for lifelong learning and never-ending curiosity. It still fuels my imagination and allows me to experience places, emotions, and situations that I otherwise could not. It has taught me empathy and compassion; it has given me a connection to the world and people around me.
Today, my Christmas list is still filled with books. I can’t pass a bookstore without spending hours on the floor browsing through titles, and the Kindle 1-Click® ordering is my savings account’s worst enemy. I am a freelance writer and editor for business blogs, which now allows me to travel to all the places I’ve read about in my books. Without reading, without Scholastic, without my mom, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I’ve truly grown up Scholastic. - Kassie Berger
Mom’s note: Kassie Berger graduated from Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida in May 2014 at the age of 19. She majored in Environmental Studies with a minor in Sustainable Environments. Currently, she’s taking two years off from school to work, travel and volunteer abroad. In 2018, she plans to pursue her Master’s degree in Agro-ecology at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences in Ås, Akershus, Norway. Her career goals are to help eliminate food deserts in urban communities around the United States.