My Superpower | Teen Ink

My Superpower

October 13, 2014
By bellariptor PLATINUM, Lexington, Massachusetts
bellariptor PLATINUM, Lexington, Massachusetts
25 articles 70 photos 16 comments

Favorite Quote:
Poetry is the soundtrack to my life, the lyrics are my thoughts accompanied by the melody of my emotions.

In the beginning, I read. My memories of elementary school involve trekking to the library multiple times a day, always filling the limit on books you could check out. Armloads of books, weighing down my backpack, filling up my mind. I actually didn’t start reading on my own until 1st grade. It was a challenge for me in kindergarten and my mom despaired. I was a late bloomer but I quickly made up for lost time. Then I cracked the code and from then on I read everything. I spent all my time at home afterschool reading and all my free time at school in the library. My parents said I used to look like I was waiting for a bus at home because I would be sitting or leaning against the wall with a book or two. I rigged a pulley system to the tree in my front yard and read in the sky. I read in the car for hours without getting motion sickness. My parents would take away “reading privileges” as a punishment because they knew reading meant more than playdates or sweets.

I had two elementary school librarians but Mrs. Weeks was the librarian during my last year. She noticed immediately that I was always in the beanbag chairs reading. She would order books I specially requested. When a new book came in she would put a bookmark with my name in it and leave it behind the desk. After school, I would slip behind the desk and the next morning I would return the book minus the bookmark. Oddly enough, I rarely discussed books with anyone, even Mrs. Weeks. I got lost in the worlds of Narnia and the confusion of Shakespeare. I read biographies of historic and modern day leaders. Corrie ten Boom along with George Washington Carver. I only wish I could have some way of counting the number of books I read that year. Later on, I began a system of cataloging books using the Dewey Decimal system and spreadsheets but this 10 year old constant reading was far before my first laptop. My guess would be that it was easily a dozen a week, probably more. Sometimes almost a decade later I have images and memories of these books that come back to me. I only remember a few of the titles but there are some from which I only get a very strong feeling without any words at all. These are the books I finished but there were quite a few who I abandoned. I was never someone who felt compelled to stick with a book to the end. If I didn’t care about the story by the end of the first hundred pages, I moved on. I remember systematically knocking out entire shelves of books. Mrs. Weeks used to joke that I had read the entire library. I wasn’t anywhere near the entire room but I bet that I had read at least 50% of the fiction. My favorite was realistic fiction. Actually it should say “realistic” fiction. I loved the books about the kids with superpowers. They couldn’t fly but they were always smarter than the grown-ups, independent in that way. I fancied myself like these secret heroes. I loved them because they were brimming with possibility. They didn’t need to have friends, they were smart. They didn’t need to be good at sports or pretty, they were special. They were my greatest role models and without them I would have collapsed inside myself.

I remember the pressure I felt to be like other kids. There used to be this rule about checking out books to challenge your vocabulary. You were supposed to find a book that had at least 5 new words every couple pages. All the other kids would be counting on their fingers but I never got more than one. I would look around and decide on an average pace to count imaginary words on my fingers until I got to five. I was afraid to be different. I thought that knowing the words was wrong. I was afraid to ask for something more difficult to read. We used to keep reading logs to encourage us to read for fun. The teachers tried to convince kids to read for 20 minutes even 15. My 2 to 3 hours a day did not fit on the sheet and I don’t think my teacher took me seriously until I showed that there were entire passages from my favorite books that I could quote from memory. I think it was by the end of the first page of To Kill a Mocking Bird that she was convinced. Whenever I see a child reading I smile. If they are reading a book I remember I feel an urge to run over and ask if they’ve met the Reynie or Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle yet.

There is no place where education for children or girls should be denied. We live in a world scared of the powerless becoming powerful. The pen is no match for the sword, it is far greater. Again and again the boys and girls of our world have proven that there is no bullet than can quiet curiosity. There is no bomb that can destroy solidarity. There is no censorship that can destroy the voice of freedom. I think reading was the most important aspect of my development because it allowed me to escape from my family and my friends and be the greatest version of myself. I was my bravest, my most logical, my most caring when in a story. I want to give this gift to the child born today in a developing without a school in his village. I want to give this gift to the girl sitting alone in the library instead of playing outside at recess. I want to give back the power of education to its owners and restore the love of reading to today’s students and teenagers. Books were my best friends and my greatest mentors. I learned about a dizzying array of worlds more beautiful than the view from adulthood will ever be. Ironically, I never realized as a 10 year old that I had already found my superpower.

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