Reading Changes Lives: How Did it Change Yours?


Has Harry Potter had a long range impact?  The Plain Dealer, a Cleveland-based newspaper, recently sponsored an essay contest inviting participants to write about how the Harry Potter books changed their lives. They received over 300 submissions from people of all ages and backgrounds.

Judges selected one grand prize winner, four runners up, and ten honorable mentions from the submitted essays. They’re publishing one essay each day until July 15th — the release date of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 — when the grand prize winner will be revealed.

All of the essays that have been published so far reveal a lot about the relationship the author has with literature and illustrate the powerful effects that books have on people’s lives. In her essay, which received an honorable mention, 19-year-old Julie Baird writes about how the Harry Potter series helped her to overcome her awkwardness and make friends through a common connection. 14-year-old Colette V. Rzeszuto describes how Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix helped her cope with her mother’s breast cancer diagnosis. And 33-year-old Christine Borne relates how the Harry Potter books renewed her love of reading and inspired her to pursue a career in literature.

As much as I love Harry Potter, I’m not sure that J.K. Rowling‘s books changed my life in any significant way, other than causing me to yearn for magical powers and the ability to perform the Petrificus Totalus spell on my parents when they told me to do my chores. But other books have affected me in profound ways… and more than anything, the simple act of reading itself has changed my life.

I have always read to escape. In elementary school, I blasted through dozens of Babysitter’s Club, Animorphs, and Boxcar Children books to pass the hours I was stuck in daycare. As an 18-year-old exchange student, I clung to the few English language books I could find as a source of comfort in an Italian-speaking society. Today, I continue to gain pleasure and comfort from books, and have begun to hone my own writing craft in the hopes of comforting someone else someday.

Anna Quindlen’s book How Reading Changed My Life is a meditation on the ways that reading is important intellectually and emotionally. She writes, of her personal relationship with books:

“There was waking, and there was sleeping, and there were books, a kind of parallel universe in which anything might happen and frequently did, a universe in which I might be a newcomer but never really a stranger. My true world.”

Everyone has a different and powerful relationship with the books that changed their lives. Tell us your stories.



Image: Phaitoon /


William C
William C2 months ago


W. C
W. C2 months ago

Thank you for the article.

Sheri Schongold
Sheri Schongold6 years ago

Reading gives us all the ability to dream, strive, communicate and do all the things that make life pleasant and fun. To be able to read, gives us the chance to fullfil dreams, to have dreams and to be able to understand how our great country was formed by people who read and dreamed of a better life without tyranny. As long as we can read, no matter (within reason) what we read, we will live a better life because we know it is out there for us.

Past Member
Past Member 6 years ago

My mom is an avid reader and I grew up with a house full of books good examples from the adults and my older brother, but was a bit too hyper and had to reread paragraphs to memorize them. My mind liked to wonder a bit and I was an athlete, dancer, busy in several activities, working and fundraising, etc. Lived on a working farm for part of my elementary and all junior high years. So, I was busy. I did try to read, loved books and loved the thought of "I can't wait to read this".. However, until I was injured in a car accident and on my back for a year, I was simply tooooo active and just looked up the answerss to homework questions and read only when I had to. did not have problems, could read well, made 100's in spelling, etc. Just too hyper. hard to concentrate.. I think I suddenly became more intersted and the more I read the more I wanted to read. Self help books, self-esteem, religion, western history, psychology, and biographies and the more I learned the more I delved deeper into the literary experience.........a vicious cycle, yet positive and enriching to my life.

jane richmond
jane richmond6 years ago

Reading gave me a well rounded education

Sarah Brierley
Sarah Brierley6 years ago

I read a lot but I haven't read any of the Harry Potter books.

Dandelion G.
Sheryl G6 years ago

Yes, reading changed my life! Reading changes everyone's life. I can't say how only through reading the world opens up to your mind. So reading changes how we think and therefore is changing us every day.

Gena M.
Gena M6 years ago

i love 2 read!!

Ally Long
Ally Long6 years ago

Reading is a very important part of my life. It made me the person I am today! :)

Ben Oscarsito
Ben O6 years ago

“I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book”
(Groucho Marx)