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Three aspects of Miss Harris County

Meet the reigning Miss Harris County, Emma Claire Ellis. Emma is a senior at The University of Texas at Austin majoring in journalism. When not attending class and studying, Emma spends her time working with several volunteer organizations in the Austin area including Students Expanding Austin Literacy which matches student volunteers to elementary school classrooms. We are delighted to announce that Emma will be sharing her passion for early literacy with a series of special story times at select HCPL branches during Spring Break. 

We had a chance to touch base with Emma recently to learn more about her and her work

HCPL: Tell us a little about your background- what brought you to the stage?

Emma Claire Ellis, Miss Harris County in tiara and gown with bouquet of pink roses

Emma: I started competing in pageants as a kid because I saw the prize was an acting scholarship, and I was an aspiring actress back then. I used to do a small kid's pageant every August as a tradition but never took it too seriously. As I got older, I learned more about the Miss America program and decided to compete in the Teen program to earn college scholarships- which I did, and it covered my entire freshman year of college! Now, I continue to compete for so many reasons- I've met some of my best friends in pageantry, and learned to be a public speaker and advocate, and I have the best time at events in the community meeting people. 

HCPL: Was there an incident or event that brought out your passion for early literacy?

Emma: I signed up to volunteer with a literacy club during my freshman year. The program matched us to elementary schools where we would sit with kiddos who needed help with their reading. I grew up with parents who read to me every day, and truthfully I never imagined that it was any different for other kids. Volunteering opened my eyes, I met kids who were unable to read a single word without struggling, while some of their classmates could already read chapter books. The rest was really history for me, I was immediately motivated to do something to help bridge that gap. It started with volunteering more frequently, and has led to my advocacy with my platform of 'Let's Read' 

HCPL: How are literacy and self-confidence tied together?

Emma reading to an elementary school class

Emma: They are SO connected, which is something I really learned through volunteering. A child who is struggling to read can feel insecure in their abilities which can make every activity at school more difficult. Empowering students with the tool of literacy allows them to access so much more, and feel confident in themselves. 

HCPL: What is your goal for the future?...and how could the library help you achieve it?

Emma: I am an aspiring journalist, I plan to start reporting on TV later this year, as I am graduating with my degree in May! I love telling all kinds of stories, but especially love uncovering unique diamonds-in-the-rough. I always wanted a job where I never got bored, and I certainly found it. Part of that is always needing knowledge on a wide variety of topics. 

The library has always helped me learn new things. I always find myself exploring new ideas through reading. Sometimes, it's concepts I have never heard of before, and in those cases, I turn to research and the library to help me gain a baseline level of knowledge to use when writing interview questions or background on a story. 

HCPL: Any library memories you’d like to share?

Emma: One of my favorites from my childhood is going into my local library when I was in elementary school when I first became addicted to reading. I chose to go to read over other after-school activities back then. I was bullied pretty badly in the 4th and 5th grades, and books were an escape for me. Reading stories of heroes also helped empower me to be my own and stand-up for myself. I remember I would sit there in the comfy seating (bigggg fan of bean bags) for hours and read nonstop. I remember the Warrior Cat series being one I could not put down. I loved having so many worlds to discover in front of me within the hundreds of books-- and I'm glad that feeling never changed. 

HCPL: When you’re back home- which is your favorite library?

Emma: I grew up all over, so home is a few different spots! In Houston, I love to go to the West U location! It's such a lovely location and neighborhood to walk around in, plus I am a sucker for a good window-spot to read. 

HCPL: We’d love to bring more teens and young adults back into the library, what’s one reason you think the library is cool?

Emma: I honestly had a very brief period where I stopped thinking the library was cool (when

Emma Claire Ellis

iPhones first popped up that was all anyone wanted to talk about) But I quickly realized that I was very wrong- haha. The moment I realized how cool knowledge was my mindset shifted. Learning new things gives you the chance to connect with a million different people, but it also empowers you to be independent and confident throughout so many aspects of your daily life. The easiest way to acquire that knowledge is definitely by reading. And that is very cool to me!

HCPL: What book did you just finish? And who would you recommend it to?

Emma: I just finished reading You by Caroline Kepnes, actually. With the new season of the show coming to Netflix, I wanted to go back to the original source material to see what it was all about. I typically read books before watching the show or movie, but never got the chance to with this series! I obviously recommend it to anyone who likes the show, but its also just a great read for anyone who enjoys a good psychological thriller. And I loved the many Taylor Swift references thrown in the book (Is Joe a swiftie?)

HCPL: What’s your favorite genre and why?

Emma: I'm truly all over the place, but ultimately my favorite is science fiction. My love of sci-fi probably started with the Hunger Games, which was my favorite series in middle school. Reading sci-fi now brings me back to how I felt reading those books for the first time! I love combinations of other genres with aspects of sci-fi a lot-- recently I finished a great historical science-fiction biography called The Premonition Bureau by Sam Knight, which was a great read. 

HCPL: Share your MUST reads list:

Emma: Narrowed it down to just 5. 

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (classic, and referenced so often still)

Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut 

(One of the most chaotic but rewarding reads, so much to analyze and take in on every single page)

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid (amazing historical/romance, tells a fictional story of a very real Hollywood, and Jenkins is a phenomenal writer, so no wonder her books keep getting adapted to shows)

Crying in H-Mart by Michelle Zauner (my favorite memoir, so beautiful)

-If Cats Disappeared from the World by Genki Kawamura (very quick and simple read, but I think about it often. Its really just a lovely story about life, that I think everyone can get something from. Had me crying on an airplane)

Emma's 5 Must-Reads
Cover - The Great Gatsby


Cover - Slaughterhouse Five


Cover - The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo


Cover - Crying in H-Mart


Cover - If Cats Disappeared from the World



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