When I was four years old, my Grandma Rooker gave me a Star Wars Boba Fett action figure to celebrate my brother’s birth. It’s the first toy I imagined flying around in space or talking to me as I ate my breakfast.

When I was in preschool, my mom took me to the library and read illustrated children’s books to me. I began to dream of talking animals and believed green eggs and ham would be better in a box with a fox.

In first grade, my dad taught me how to read with a book series called “I SEE SAM.” It’s the first time I understood how images and words told a story.

My Grandpa Dalton bought me the Adventures of Tom Sawyer in Disneyland when I was in the third grade. And in Tom Sawyer, I found someone I could identify with: overly emotional, full of wild fantasies, but loyal and caring to a fault.

All through grade school, my Grandma Dalton bought me books whenever I wanted them. She firmly held to the adage that toys are for Christmas, books are fore anytime, and taught me to value and honor and invest in something I loved deeply: reading. This act passed on to me her love of reading.

In eighth grade, my Grandpa Rooker told me that his Naval skipper kept their battleship out of World War II battles. His actions–seen by some as cowardice and as mercy by others–saved my grandpa’s life and made mine possible.

Toys, stories, books, places—all of these things impact our lives. What has influenced you?

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