For me, the Wilton Library has always been much more than just a place to find books. Throughout the first few years of my life, I made countless paper plate art projects in the Craft Room, I played games of make-believe with my brother while running through the rows of books, and I learned how to read using books pulled from the shelves of the Children’s Section. During this key period of development in my life, the library helped me to discover that books were able to bring stories to life through language and make me feel any range of emotions. I was immediately hooked.

Soon, I had left behind the picture books about hungry caterpillars and a cat in the hat to find new, longer stories that left me imagining myself a heroic knight or skillful wizard. From these early days of story times and simple crafts, I moved on to join monthly book clubs and attend day camps where the fictional settings in Harry Potter, Star Wars, and more were brought to life by caring and devoted librarians. These people worked every day to make reading fun and worthwhile for kids, creating programs that made us want to pick up and enjoy a book every day. The work the librarians put into programs not only entertained us on rainy days or gave parents a break, but it fundamentally changed me to be a more inquisitive and engaged person. A large part of who I am as a student and as a person can be credited to the time I spent at the Wilton Library. Without the Wilton Library, I do not know who I would be today.

Soon, I was becoming too old for many of the programs in the children’s department, having graduated from the gardening club and finished my last craft in the craft room. I could still read any of the books available to me in the library, but my time participating in most of the programs was over. However, I soon discovered that some of these activities had relied on volunteers my age. I immediately signed up to help at the next activity, a Harry Potter-themed camp, knowing that I could still be a part of these incredible programs, just in a new way. Just a few years after I had attended the event and been enchanted with the different Hogwarts-themed activities, I was able to help recreate that excitement about books for a younger group of kids.

I continued volunteering there at several more programs, helping to do face paint or shepherd young kids around the library as they talked constantly about their favorite characters and how excited they are for the next book in a series. In recent years, the busy high school lifestyle has occupied all of my time and I’ve found it harder to make time to volunteer at the library or even read a good book. Whenever I still have the time, I like to visit Wilton Library, finding books to read as I take in the familiar surroundings. I sometimes poke my head into the Children’s Section to remember all the time I’ve spent there. I see the librarians teaching a group of young kids how to make a craft, I hear the noises of books being organized and of the children playing together, and I know that although I have moved on and grown up, the Wilton Library continues to inspire many young kids to love reading and learning just as it did for me.

Ryan McElroy is a senior at Wilton High School. He shares this column with three classmates.