Growing Up Reading, by Analeise Jarvi-Beamer

There is a picture of me and my father in one of our old photo albums that I always enjoy looking at.  I am about one year old, and am sitting on Dad’s lap.  He is reading a book (The Brothers Karamazov, I think), and I’m looking at the book, brow furrowed, as if I understand what I’m seeing.

Now, I wasn’t really reading, of course.  I couldn’t talk back then, much less comprehend Dostoyevsky.  But I’ve been reading for a very long time.  It started out with books like Moo Baa La La La, and Peter Bunny, but then came the Magic Tree House, and Tuck Everlasting, A Series Of Unfortunate Events, and Caddie Woodlawn.  And pretty soon it was The Chronicles of Narnia, and The Hobbit, and Harry Potter.  After that it was The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, and the works of Agatha Christie, then The Great Gatsby, Brave New World, Fahrenheit 451, Dune, The Left Hand of Darkness and Breakfast of Champions.  I went through a classical period with Shakespeare and Jane Austen. Now I’m reading genres I didn’t used to, with Looking For Alaska, The Fault in Our Stars, and The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks.  But I still love all the older reads.

I still love Moo Baa La La La and Peter Bunny.

I love owning books too.  You can tell the ones I love the most by looking at my room.  There is a special place on my bookcase for the ‘Veterans of the shelf’.  Their dog-eared pages and well worn covers speak of comfort and familiarity, like old friends.

Reading has got me through the hard parts of growing up.  Somewhere between Tuck Everlasting and The Fault in Our Stars I grew a bit, started school, spent a year in Finland, applied for The Conserve School, and now, somehow,  it’s 28 days til my 16th birthday.

I feel very old sometimes.

But I haven’t changed that much from the baby frowning intently at pages of high Russian Literature she couldn’t understand yet.

So, please, ladies and gentleman, make your children read.  Read  aloud to them if they are too young to do it themselves.  (Audiobooks work too.)  Because life is confusing, and growing up is hard.  And there is nothing so comforting, and encouraging, as a good book to while away the years with, and when the world seems harsh and terrible, a book can be all you need to make the best of it.