We Can Still Be Jo Marches and Anne Shirleys

by Jennifer Gu ’23

Source: Akhilesh Kanuri ’25

Published Feb. 12th, 2022

“My name is Junie B. Jones. The B stands for Beatrice. Except I don’t like Beatrice. I just like B and that’s all.” This is the iconic first line of the Junie B. Jones children’s book series written by Barbara Park. It takes teenagers back to their younger years, to the days when they would adventure through school with six-year-old Junie, climb the ladder up a magic treehouse, and solve mysteries with Nancy Drew.

As these children grew older, they made friends such as Harry Potter and the golden trio, Percy Jackson and his assemblage of demigods, and Katniss Everdeen.

These were children who would sit down and devour piles of books at once, beg to stay up to read just one more chapter, and relish the magic of fiction.

And then came high school.

According to the American Psychological Association, over 80% of teenagers don’t read for fun. The fascination in the turn of a page suddenly disappeared as teenagers entered the world of grades, standardized tests, and the pressure to get into a good college.

Grace Ren ‘23, a once avid reader, says that books used to “bring [her] into another world,” but now, they don’t even “bring [her] as much joy as they used to.”

When reflecting on her past love for reading, she recognizes that she used to receive a lot of encouragement to read from the people and environment around her. She recalls that when her fifth grade teacher recommended the Harry Potter series to her, she read all seven books in a week because she absolutely fell in love with the stories. 

However, when Grace entered high school, her overload of work blocked her from her once-enjoyable journey inside of a book. Reading became difficult to manage with homework, tests, and essays, and seemed like a waste of time when she could have been doing schoolwork, instead. 

But reading for fun is not impossible in high school. Eugenie Zhu ‘23 has been a book-lover since her early elementary years and still is now.

Eugenie, who read Louisa May Alcott’s lengthy Little Women in just over a week in 2021, believes that reading is important for high school students and thus aims to read as much as she can. She says, “I think it’s a shame that people won’t read many books in their lives.” Furthermore, Eugenie believes that people can make time for reading if they truly want to, which is how she’d managed to read nearly thirty books in 2021.

There are many benefits of reading. It can help with literacy, communication techniques, and skills in analyzing. Most importantly, reading excites the joys of escapism

As children, many wanted nothing more than to visit the likes of Hogwarts, Narnia and Camelot, and reading was the best way to get to those places. As people grow older, the urge to put a pause on the often overwhelming world only strengthens the need for opening up a paperbound book to tumble down a rabbit hole. 

Years ago, teenagers were once Jo Marches and Anne Shirleys. Surely, that can be true again.

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