Growing up in Youngstown, Ohio in the 1990s, YSU Penguins football was a huge part of my family’s life. Every Saturday in the fall we would load up our red GMC Safari van with our tent and food and head downtown to tailgate. However, once we made it up to the stands and the game began, I would pull a book from my purse and spend the majority of the game in the world of literature. I always loved how you could spend an entire day completely lost in a book, and any troubles you are having in the real world completely disappear because it could be worse – at least Lord Voldemort isn’t constantly after you, right?
The imaginary world of fiction provides an amazing escape for readers, especially children. While the world of a book is rarely a perfect utopia, it’s the perfect escape because you can worry about something that you know is completely different from where you are now. Spending the day worrying about the well-being of your favorite book character is a lot more enjoyable than spending the day worrying about problems that are happening in your own backyard. When we enter the fantasy world of literature, all of our real problems disappear – at least for the moment.
I recently attended a meeting with the Vacant and Abandoned Property Action Council where I learned a lot about vacancy and abandonment problems in Cleveland. I am from Youngstown, Oho, and as a fellow Rustbelt native I understand what it is like to drive past abandoned buildings on your way to work everyday, and I know that it is not ideal. But, I also know what it is like to love the city that is home to those abandoned buildings and the people that also drive past them everyday; and, I know what it is like to want to make that city the best that it can be. I spent many years being involved in the Youngstown community, and have learned that community is a vital part of our lives, especially in a world where things are not perfect all the time. With Literary Lots, I love that I get to help out a community that so clearly values their home and fellow community members — as well as a community that I have grown to love myself.
The combination of community and literature – two things that help us find happiness in an imperfect world – is why I think the Literary Lots project is so amazing. When a child reads a book, they enter the literary world and leave the real world behind. When a child enters the Literary Lot, the community and literary world combine and provide an escape while also maintaining real world engagement in the Ohio City community.