The Reading Without Walls Challenge

Have you heard about the Reading Without Walls Challenge? National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature and author Gene Luen Yang wants you to expand your reading horizons, and get out of your comfort zone. Here is Gene to tell you more:

Reading outside your own experience gives you a better understanding of other people and the world, making you more empathetic and compassionate. Need some ideas of books to try? Some of our Sno-Isle Teen Ambassadors have books that expanded their horizons:

Anna – Camano Island

The best book that I read which opened my eyes a little more was called The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls. It’s an autobiography, telling her story growing up with mentally ill parents without many funds.  I started reading it because my step-mom told me that the girl underwent some struggles similar to my own when I was little, but as I read, I realized that Jeannette and her siblings were in such a worse situation. They were all but homeless, and her father spent all of their money on gambling or drinks. I realized that not everyone who is homeless is so because they don’t have a choice, and that you shouldn’t judge a person by what’s happened to them. Jeannette Walls went to college in New York City and became a successful author. She didn’t let her challenges get in the way of doing what she wanted in life, and that inspired me.



Dani – Lynnwood

When I was around 11 or 12, I read a book called Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper. It’s about a brilliant girl named Melody with cerebral palsy who is often just defined by the label of being “mentally challenged” despite her being incredibly smart. This book made my younger self realize how the social bias I had and made me rethink the way I had shallowly looked at students who were different.




Vaishu – Mill Creek

The best book that was “out of my walls” would be To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. We’ve all heard the stories of a black man or a white man during the racial segregation times, but have we ever heard the story of a young girl. This novel not only gave an insight to the culture of the world, but also how to cope with them. The sacrifices and the ‘coming of age’ the protagonist experiences led me to open my perspectives and also face the world.



Jonathan – Lynnwood


In 1984, the people were under constant surveillance.  Much like 1984, our modern society has a lot more cameras ranging from security cameras to street cameras to our phone cameras.  Reading this book has made me realize that even though we live in a “free” world, our actions can be easily monitored and traced through the internet.



Helen – Edmonds

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain is one of my favorite books that is “outside of my walls.” This coming of age novel, set in the South antebellum society, opened my eyes to the harsh reality of slavery and racism back then. Furthermore, an important theme (especially in the ending) of the novel reminds us that change for the better is difficult – particularly regarding racism – which is unfortunately relevant to our world today.




Daniela – Camano Island

Prior to reading Red Scarf Girl by Ji-li Jiang, I had very little knowledge of Chinese culture and history but I was fascinated by the story of China’s Cultural Revolution and the policies meant to inspire patriotism that gradually created turmoil and unrest as well as political brainwashing. This book was one of, if not the first, books to show me the many shades of gray in the political world. Despite the seemingly good intentions of the Cultural Revolution to advance China, many deeply negative consequences emerge for the cause of the greater good.



Caroline – Mukilteo

My favorite book I’ve read that was “outside my walls” is Half the Sky by Sheryl WuDunn and Nicholas D. Kristof. This nonfiction text opened my eyes to the injustices targeting women around the world, and I’d absolutely recommend it to anyone looking for a powerful call to action. The authors present the stories of these oppressed women in such a compelling way that I couldn’t put it down.




What is your favorite book outside your walls? Or, what book are you reading to meet this challenge?


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5 responses to “The Reading Without Walls Challenge”

  1. Angie Wang says:

    My favorite book “outside my walls” is Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz. The protagonist, Ari, helped me see the world through eyes that were of a different ethnicity, gender, and sexuality than mine. It presented many differences and parallels to my life, as I compared my adolescence with Ari’s coming of age, and the challenges associated with his life.

  2. Bernadette Utterback says:

    One of the books I’ve read that was “outside my walls” was Dear Blue Sky by Mary Sullivan. This book really opened my eyes to things I’d never thought of before. In Dear Blue Sky we follow our main character Cassie who’s brother goes off to fight in Iraq. In the book, Cassie’s perfect life turns upside down and she turns to an unlikely person for comfort an Iraqi girl named blue sky who Cassie meets though her blog. I don’t want to give away the whole book but I think this book definitely made me think about a life I had never thought of before. I first read this book when I was just beginning middle school and I still think about it daily and I’m now a freshman in high school.

  3. Grace Colby says:

    While I’ve read countless books that focused on someone who is unlike me, Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi is my favorite. The graphic novel showed me what challenges Marjane faced. It also taught me about what life was like post the Islamic revolution for Marjane and many others. I believe it is important to learn about all different cultures, ways of living, people, etc, and I love how the Reading Without Walls Challenge encourages people to do just that; read about people unlike you!

  4. Laura Campbell says:

    The Glass Castle is a memoir written by Jeannette Walls. Jeanette recounts her unstable, adventurous childhood and the story of how she became a writer. I have always had a roof over my head, employed parents, and a loving family that I never take for granted. Learning about living in poverty was eye-opening and changed my perspective about the homeless. There are people like Jeannette’s family that choose to be homeless and abuse the help that they are given.

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