When I Got My Library Card

Paul Keefer

Oct 12, 2019

“When I got my library card, that’s when my life began.” ~Rita Mae Brown

During the strange growth cycles of my middle school experience, I was challenged by my mother to do a simple task: read. Of course, like any middle schooler, I was appalled. What a horrible suggestion. I wouldn’t dare waste my time reading a book when I could be wandering through the woods or playing with a friend outside. I was enraged that this boring, meaningless chore was being forced upon me. More than that, it was being requested that I do this every day.

For many years, I despised reading. It was devastating to be motionless when I could be doing a host of other kinesthetic activities. I couldn’t find a single reason why it would be enjoyable, and it was mind boggling how other people would sit and read for hours at a time. Despite my strong convictions, I put forth my best efforts to be a good child and obey my mother. What I soon found was that I actually enjoyed reading. This didn’t take place quickly, of course, as I had to sift through many books that seemed lifeless and find the short stories that were engaging enough to read past the first page. Eventually, I landed on a series of stories about two children in a magic tree house. I learned to enjoy these stories - at least enough to pass the time I was required to read. After a decent amount of self discipline, I moved on to other stories. I went on to discover the Boxcar Children and the predictable yet exhilarating Hardy Boys books.

By the time I entered the fifth grade, I was keenly interested in having reading as a daily hobby. Though it once appeared to impede my creativity, now it only encouraged my enthusiastic fifth grade brain. The vast expanses of my imagination were opened while I pictured the stories of the many characters in my books. Switching from homeschool to private school, I was enrolled in a program where you were awarded points for each book you read in a quarter. This only encouraged my reading abilities, as I soon picked up the longest fictional fantasies I could find and carried them with me for the bus ride to and from home. Since the commute was an hour each way, I figured the only valuable way to spend my time was to prop up my knees on the seat in front of me and read as much as I could. The hour that was supposed to feel long often flew by as I imagined the incredible stories of Harry Potter, Eragon, and Frodo Baggins. I was so stimulated by reading that I would stay up past my bedtime, shining a small flashlight below my sheets to continue the stories. The morning was simply too long to wait to read another page, and I was captured by my favorite past time.

By the time I entered high school, my reading became limited. I stopped my strange addiction and began focusing on other things, like sports, to fill my time. Understandably, I was tasked with more responsibilities than I had as a sprout young middle schooler. Deep down, however, I missed it. I kept my reading alive as much as I could, venturing into new material like poems from Lewis Carroll and true life stories like that of Louis Zamperini in Unbroken. The spring of my sophomore year was almost entirely engrossed by my reading of the well known fantasy series, The Lord of the Rings, of which I read in every study hall instead of doing my homework. (That penalized me in the long run, but that’s another story altogether.)

From high school I went on to college, where I was further transformed by the wonder and practicality of reading. I became allured with the idea of how religion affects a worldview, so I read deeply into apologetics and how faith may have reason. From there I followed where my passions led me, reading any topic that enlivened me. Sometimes it was a science fiction novel, other times it was a book on personal finance or business ownership. At one point in my college career I made the decision to read a book every two weeks for a semester. With lots of discipline (and a fair amount of skimming) I was able to succeed in doing so.

Through my discipline, I have found that I have never lost my desire to read. The task that I thought would kill me when my mother put me in a room with nothing but a book ended up sparking my brain with life. There was no limit to the knowledge I could unlock- all I needed was a library card and a few pens.

In the days of technology and a vast array of sources for knowledge, reading appears to be a lost art. No matter what way marketers change the way it’s presented, reading is still as simple as picking up a book with the heartfelt intent of finishing it. It is a forgotten discipline, but most critically it is a uncultivated passion. If your curiosity for knowledge is never grown, you will never develop a love for reading. There are few things in life that can fill you with such imagination and creativity like reading.

A professor of mine once noted that, “reading is the most underwhelming thing in the world.” I couldn’t agree more. Our culture is entertained with endlessly void hobbies and have forsaken a lost practice that brings life into a heavy soul. The uncomfortable truth is that reading no longer brings wonder - it is simply underwhelming.

In the end, it is a personal journey. One must embark with a serious intention to begin reading. But with this journey come paths of excitement.Take note of many before us who have been changed through the wisdom that comes through the act of habitually reading books. Consider that even Malcolm X found hope through the discipline of reading while he remained behind bars in prison. If a prisoner can develop a practice so extraordinarily profound, so can you.

Quit fretting over the notion that reading isn’t cool, or that no one reads anymore. Think of the possibilities open to you in the world of comprehensive and joy filled reading. Explore your passions and search for ways to absorb a wealth of knowledge. All you have to do is start. Pick up a book…and read.