Reading makes me believe in the power of home
Respect for nature
Published: Mar 28, 2024 08:05 PM
Editor's Note:

"Read ten thousand books, and your pen will be guided as if by the gods" is an ancient Chinese idiom that can be seen in students' textbooks. China's Ministry of Education has published an action plan to further promote reading among students across the nation. With new and diverse book recommendations, the reading scene is expected to be revived not only at schools, but also across society. To contribute to this endeavor, the Global Times launched "My Reading Life" essay contest for middle school students.

Please pick up a pen and share your stories with us at

Participants will be rewarded once the article has been selected.



Everyone's reading habit is unique. Some people like to read one book their whole life, while others like to read a lot of books. I'm in both part of the second group and the first one. Every vacation, I give my little sister and brother a huge box with books in it. I think that a great book can make someone change, like traveling. Reading is like a trip around the world. Compared to other people, I don't like to write about books I read, but I prefer to write a post-reading essay. The One and Only Ivan is one of my favorite books. 

Animal protection 

The book was published in 2012 by novelist Katherine Applegate and illustrated by Patricia Castelao. 

The story is told from Ivan's perspective and is about a gorilla named Ivan who was kept in a cage at a mall.

The story develops around Ivan and two other characters, Bob and Stella. Ivan lives in his realm and is generally satisfied with his existence. He watches television, eats bananas, and creates artworks that are sold by the owner. Along with Ivan, Stella, an elephant, and Bob, a stray dog, live in the mall, too. Stella is an elderly elephant with a long-standing leg injury who routinely appears in the daily shows. 

Stella, unlike Ivan, has a long memory and can recall living in various places like the circus. Stella preferred living at the zoo because the place was much bigger. Stella feels that good zoos help humans change their ideas about animals. 

I read the book for the first time when I was in Grade 2. One night I suddenly cried while reading this book. 

My dad was confused and my mom gave me some tissues. I wondered why the audience didn't take Ivan to the zoo, but let him return to nature instead? I was so young that I had no idea about home and loneliness. 

After reading it for the first time, I started to be more observant and caring to those around me, especially my classmates who transferred to my school. They were not like the local students who had a lot of friends and knew the lifestyle in the city, so I wanted to play with them more often while they were away from their hometowns. 

When I grew up a little bit, I learned that China has made strict laws in animal protection. I later read the book again. Ivan's friend Ruby is a member of a circus troupe and needs to train every day or the boss will not give her food to eat. 

I gradually developed negative feelings toward the circus and other forms of performances that involve animal manipulation. 

Animals are not like human beings, who can express their ideas with words, but animals like elephants and dolphins are extremely intelligent and sensitive. 

They can have  happiness and sorrow as we human beings do. Putting them in a circus is a form of animal exploitation. Human beings, in my opinion, have no right to demand animals to serve for our happiness. The interactions between human beings and animals should be equal and reciprocal. 

Sweet home

Last summer, I was about to give the book to another child. I took it out from the many books that accompanied me during my childhood. 

The last time I read it, I gained an even deeper understanding. For humans, animals can build a home anywhere. 

As long as we give them some food, enough water, and a clean place to live, they will not be homesick. Some even believe that animals do not need a home at all. 

A home can be something like a small temporary shelter built after experiencing floods like in Bronze and Sunflower, or it could be a luxurious villa, but does having a villa mean having a home?

No! Home should be happy, not about the size of a house. With Ivan's efforts, he and his friends leave the mall where they don't belong. 

In Ivan's domain, the decorations are very luxurious, and there is even a TV set. Ivan's concept of home has become blurred, only knowing that there is thick glass between him and freedom. He wants the master to give him a chance to stay with his friends and another silverback, it is his dream. 

This might be all he pursues. It may be simple, childish, and even ridiculous, but it is indeed true and firm. Even enslaved and insignificant beings have the right to dream. The ending of The One and Only Ivan is beautiful. Ivan is sent to a wildlife park to live with dozens of silverback gorillas, and the little elephant Ruby is also sent to an amusement park to play with other little elephants. Reading this, my heart gradually calmed down.

The term "home" has the power to elicit strong feelings in both humans and animals. 

It makes sense why so many tales have a lovely reunion at the end. Mohr famously remarked, "I toured the world to discover what I wanted, came home, and found it." This is how Ruby, Ivan, and I felt.

Every book has its beauty, every story has its lessons, and every change has its reasons. 

Reading can help you empathize with many people and animals far away, providing you with spiritual comfort when you are lost. 

Reading allows me to go where I please, has always accompanied me, enriched me, changed me, and this will go on in the future.

The author is a student at the Experimental High School Attached to Beijing Normal University