"Books were my path to personal freedom. I learned to read at age 3 and soon discovered there was a whole world to conquer that went beyond our farm in Mississippi." (Oprah Winfrey)
How did a young black girl raised on a farm with no running water nor electricity grow up to be a billionaire? It all started with a library card.
Oprah Winfrey spent her childhood on a farm in Mississippi where she wore potato sacks as dresses. The daughter of a broken home, her father remarried. It was her dad who instilled in her the importance of education, taking her to the public library every two weeks where she withdrew five titles. "Books were my path to personal freedom. I learned to read at age 3 and soon discovered there was a whole world to conquer that went beyond our farm in Mississippi." Not only did Oprah have to read the books she borrowed but she had to present a book report to her parents about each one. While other children were watching Leave it to Beaver, Oprah was visiting the public library.
Oprah's passion for reading allowed her the chance to dream. As she explained:
"As a young girl in Mississippi I had big dreams at a time when being a Negro child you weren't supposed to dream big. I dreamed anyway. Books did that to me. Books allowed me to see a world beyond the front porch of my grandmother's shotgun house and gave me the power to see possibilities beyond what was allowed at the time: beyond economic and social realities, beyond classrooms with no books and unqualified teachers, beyond false beliefs and prejudice that veiled the minds of so many men and women of the time. For me, those dreams started when I heard the stories of my rich heritage. When I read about Sojourner Truth and Harriet Tubman and Mary McLeod Bethune and Frederick Douglass. I knew that there was possibility for me." (http://www.ilovelibraries.org/article/reading-life-oprah-winfrey)
Oprah Winfrey's talk show, which debuted in the 1980's, was seen by more than 40 million Americans each week, as well as millions of viewers worldwide, Oprah's Book Club, which debuted in 1996, sewed the seeds for new readers. Ten thousand copies of each selection were sent to over 3500 public and secondary schools. Oprah's Book Club has boosted sales for authors, who would normally sell thousands of books to hundreds of thousands or even millions.
Oprah has furthered her love of reading with her Oprah magazine which first hit newsstands in 2000. Among other categories, the magazine has a book review section. While back on her Mississippi farm, she only had an audience of two for her book reviews, now she has a readership of about 2.5 million. Upon receiving a United Nations Humanitarian award in 2004, Oprah said: "Getting my library card was like citizenship." It paved the way for this self-made billionaire.
Oprah Winfrey at 2 years old, only a year before she learned how to read courtesy http://www.oprah.com/pressroom/Oprah-Winfreys-Official-Biography.