Finding Solace in Stories

July 27, 2023

Kemi Ojikutu is a 17-year-old anti-racism activist. She serves as the ambassador for the Youth Volunteer Corps of Reading’s Stand Together Against Racism (STAR) initiative. Through her work, she utilizes education and dialogue to combat racism on a global scale. With STAR, she has delivered her message of activism and allyship to hundreds of people through various workshops and projects. Additionally, she has made connections with people worldwide who are striving for the same goal through international collaborations. She is passionate about contributing to her community and the world as well as empowering others.

This story took place in United States

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I got into reading in the second grade. My teacher read us this book called The Penderwicks, and after finishing it, I found the rest of the series online and dove in.

Since then, I have always loved stories. I would find a book I liked, read all the other books the author wrote, and then move on to the next tale. I especially loved talking to my friends about the books we read. I was/am a huge extrovert who loved communicating and spending time with others. Books allowed me to do that with more people and make connections with not only new friends but with characters as well.

In middle school, my friend recommended a book series to me that, after some time, I was captivated by, and we enjoyed them together. It was so fun to read the books at home, then talk about the characters, the storylines, and the plot twists at school. My artistic friend even made us fanart of our favorite characters. It was the best, and I looked forward to it every day. It was so relaxing and fun to wake up every morning, go to school, talk about books, learn, go to clubs/sports, then home to read more and talk about it tomorrow. I fell in love with my routine and cherished it very much.

When covid hit during my 7th-grade year though, that all stopped.

There was no more going to school or doing clubs and sports. Everything was online. I love learning, but a huge part of the experience for me was learning with others. I loved working with partners/groups to complete assignments and getting to talk to people at school, but that was on pause. Yes, we had phones to talk to each other and had our books at home, but it wasn’t the same.

I don’t even know what happened, one minute I was this super happy, bubbly social butterfly who couldn’t wait to do everything, and the next, I didn’t want to do anything.

Without being able to go to school, talk to my friends, and participate in things, I no longer had anything to look forward to and lost joy in a lot of other things.

Online school was new and different, and I spent so much time making sure that I did well that I stopped reading. I settled into this new routine of waking up, doing my school work, then going on my phone or doing other things until I went to bed. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was depressed. I was uninterested in everything and in a persistent gloomy mood. I stayed this way throughout the summer, and it was until the beginning of our 8th-grade year when my friend reached out with book series that she thought I would like.

I wasn’t interested at first, but she persisted. She would relentlessly send me Pinterest pins and tiktoks about the series, obsess over the characters to me, and urge me to read it as well. I didn’t realize it then, but this helped me a lot. Seeing that we could still have some version of the “book club” we had created gave me some hope to pick up a book again.

Thankfully, I did and was immediately captured by the story. It took a while, but reading those books made me so happy, and got me back to being myself.

Even without being able to see my friends in person and talk about them with them, social media allowed us to connect. I had thought that the reason I was sad was because I couldn’t see people, but looking back, another main factor was the fact that I forgot how much I loved reading. In the storm of online school, everything abruptly stopping, and the global pandemic, I’d lost sight of the things that brought me so much joy. Since then, my friends and I have read countless books and series together and had so much fun with them. I’m so glad that I had people in my life to help me keep my love of reading, and that I was able to use that love to find solace in stories.

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