Growing up, I wasn't allowed to have a television in my room. The reason? My mom was concerned that watching too much TV would stop me from exploring the world of books. At the time, I was annoyed, but looking back, I couldn't be more grateful. My nighttime ritual became reading until my eyes closed, and a trip to the library became way better than one to the toy store — after all, why buy a new Barbie when you could spend time traveling to distant worlds via a crisp new novel? If there's one person who understood how strongly I felt about books, it was the titular character in Roald Dahl's Matilda . Matilda was the perfect role model for young girls who worshipped the written word, and she's a reminder that being well-read is a pretty powerful life tool.
Matilda had a very different upbringing than I did, especially when it came to how her parents viewed books. While my parents always seemed to have a book on their reading list, Matilda's neglectful (and, frankly, abusive) parents were perpetually glued to the tube, ignoring their youngest child to watch bad game shows and eat TV dinners. Matilda's one safe haven was the library, a place where she could devour as many stories as she wanted until it was time to go back to her literary-devoid home life. Books were her escape. Knowledge was her escape.
Matilda's escape to the library is a very literal definition of the power that reading can provide young women. For a long time, women weren't allowed the opportunities to learn in the same way that men could. We're well past the years in which women weren't allowed to attend university, but we're not quite past women being considered "less than" in terms of education. According to The Washington Post, low self-esteem in girls has been tracked to poorer academic performance. If girls aren't told that they should crave knowledge, why should they go out their and seek it for themselves? Matilda is a reminder that young girls do have power to control their own education, and reading is a big part of that.
Matilda takes charge of her education, first by reading, and then demanding to her parents that they should send her to school so she can learn from new books. It's a bold move for the six year old, and one that's important for young girls everywhere. Matilda's power of choice comes from her love of reading. She only realizes she has it after she has read nearly every book in the library. For Matilda, reading has opened up doors she didn't even know existed — what could be a better message for young girls?
Matilda reminded girls everywhere that they had power, and that they could utilize it simply by picking up a book and learning things from it. For a voracious reader, that's already inspiring — but for the young girl who stays up late watching TV, it might just remind them that there's a lot hidden in the books on her shelf.
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