By Amanda Schumaker, Humanities Instructor

I’m a compulsive purchaser of books. I can’t go into a book store without buying at least two. When I lived in Seattle, I would plan weekend trips to Powell’s, an independent book store that is – literally – takes up a whole city block. At any given time, I have no fewer than five books on my nightstand and one in my purse.

In Seattle, I worked with a woman who had a young son. She noticed me reading on my lunch break every day, and one day she asked, “Why do you love reading so much? What got you started?” She wanted her son to read more, but didn’t know how to encourage him to enjoy it. I paused for a second, and then replied, “My dad.”

When I was growing up in Ohio, my dad would take me with him to Barnes & Noble almost every weekend. Each time, he let me pick out a book – any book. When I got older and discovered the bargain section, I learned how to convince him to let me get more than one (“But these three are about the same price as ONE regular book…”). He always gave in. I loved browsing through shelves and shelves of books, knowing my dad was somewhere else in the store doing the same. We returned home, and between baseball, basketball, or football games, we would sit on the couch and read. It was our quiet time, but also our time together.

My dad – intentional or not – made reading fun. I was incredibly shy and quiet when I was little – something that many in our HamFam will find surprising. Reading let my once-introverted-self explore new worlds from the comfort of a couch, a chair, or my bed. I studied magic with Harry, Hermione (my favorite), and Ron, battled mythological creatures with Percy Jackson, and stumbled into being a princess with Mia Thermopolis.

I became a stronger writer through reading. I picked up on grammar rules before I learned them in school because I read so much, and I expanded my vocabulary. But more importantly, I learned how to think through my own decisions and how to understand viewpoints and experiences different from my own.

Here at Hamilton Education, we aim to do the same thing my dad did for me. We create a fun, welcoming atmosphere in our Enrichment programs – both Brainiacs and Pre-SAT – in which our students can explore new worlds and perspectives, while also learning how to be better writers, thinkers, and communicators.

As the Enrichment instructor at the Carmel Valley office, I bring my love of books into the classroom (or conference room) with all of my classes. Each month, we investigate a new theme or topic (Greek and Roman mythology in Percy Jackson and the Olympians, sociological changes that mark everyday life in The Tipping Point, international activism in I Am Malala, and the roles of women in 18th-century England in Persuasion, to name a few) and learn rhetorical strategies, grammar rules, and new vocabulary. We engage in critical and analytical thinking and have fun doing it.

My dad and I can’t go to Barnes & Noble every weekend anymore since we live about 2,000 miles apart. But we send books to each other, and we talk on the phone about what we’re reading at least once a week. Occasionally, he’ll even suggest a book for our Enrichment classes.