Following is the full transcript of an 11-year old girl from Beijing, April Qu’s TEDx Talk on The Power of Reading at TEDxYouth@Suzhou conference. This event occurred on November 21, 2015.
Good afternoon, everybody. I am April.
Eight years ago, I got the biggest and best present ever, of my life. After reading me books every night since I was about two, my mom opened a children’s bookstore. I still remember the day I stepped into the warm, lovely place. Sunshine glowing on the bookshelves, and I smelled the scent of books. And I still remember the happy moment my mom held me in her arms and read me a book.
“In an old house in Paris
That was covered with vines,
Lived twelve little girls
In two straight lines.”
Time passed, and I grew from a little kid who was often mistaken for a boy to a big girl standing in front of you on this stage. However, the love of reading has been kept unchanged, except that I don’t suck my fingers anymore while I’m reading.
Having the freedom to read and the freedom to choose is one of the best gifts my mom ever gave me. Although running a bookstore is not always a good choice for making money, mom never regrets quitting her high-salary job and devoting herself to the small bookstore. She is very proud of her work, that brings a passion for reading to me and other children.
Surrounded by books, I am enthusiastic about reading. I bring a book with me wherever I go. I read in restaurants while I’m waiting for a meal. I read in the metro on my way to school. I read every night before I go to sleep. To read is to voyage through time, to visit places you would never otherwise know, to experience a world of imagination, adventure, and discovery.
Take Alice in Wonderland as an example. When I read that book, I fell with Alice into her Wonderland. It’s so weird, so visual. There, rabbits can talk, playing cards can watch, and cats can vanish at will. As I read that book, my mind kept wanting to return to Wonderland and experience all this nonsense again. So I drew this picture.
I drew the Cheshire Cat, the Caterpillar on the giant mushroom, and the girl. I didn’t know if the girl was Alice or myself. I was too young when I drew that picture, but I really wished that I could’ve lived inside that book. So you can see in the book, bored Alice followed a rabbit and tumbled down to Wonderland, whereas in the real world, a book can always lead you to escape the boredom of everyday life and enter a magic world. For example, we can take the Magic School Bus to explore the human body, or we can escape into nature by reading Fabre’s Book of Insects.
We can even travel back to ancient Greece or Rome in the series of Horrible Histories. With a book, we can go anywhere and be anything. Reading is also a good way for us to connect with others. It’s amazing how when you’re reading a book on a train, a stranger next to you says, “Hey, I loved that book too.” This is a true story between me and Yoyo. We then immediately started a discussion about characters in that book. Yoyo’s mom and my mom also found that they had a lot in common.
Last year, our families took a trip to Singapore together. This is us on our first day in Singapore. We went to a big bookstore and spent half a day there. This is not the only story. When I share fun “Did you know?” book facts with my friends or help other readers my age find the book that’s just right for them, we build up relationships and get to know each other better.
Also, I believe that when parents read to their children, it brings back good memories from their own childhood. This is a strong relationship that can get rid of gaps in-between generations.
Another amazing thing about reading is, when you’re reading, in a way, you’re engaging in a conversation with the author. One of the authors I admire very much is Bill Bryson, who was humorous and witty. When reading his great book “A Short History of Nearly Everything,” I feel like I’m accompanying the author as he travels through space and time, from the Big Bang to the rise of civilization. His deep curiosity of the world we live in and encyclopedic knowledge of these topics impressed and touched me.
Another beloved author is Roald Dahl, whose hilarious, breathtaking books are so attractive that I don’t even want the story to end. I have read all of his books for children, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Witches, The BFG, and many others. When asked in an interview, “How do you get your story ideas?” the author answered, “I always start with a little seed of idea, a little germ. Every time I get a great idea, I would pull out a notebook and write it down. or else, it would disappear like a dream.” These tips helped me a lot when I first started writing.
I use my idea-notebook to write down my seeds of ideas. And in the stories of The Minpins, Roald Dahl told us, “Watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places.” I was inspired when I read this. I’ve taken it as advice not only from the great author but also from a wise man who had a deep insight into our world.
Just like Roald Dahl’s character the BFG, Big Friendly Giant, whose job was to collect and blow pleasant dreams to small children, Roald Dahl, Bill Bryson, Sheldon Allan Silverstein, Dr. Seuss, and other writers, they had blown big dreams to me and every other reader. I dreamed that one day I can make magic of my own as an author, for myself, my friends, my kids, and other children.