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Dear Young Reader Me

Have you ever written a letter to your younger self?

Jan 24 Dear Reader Me Pauline Baird Jones

Have you ever written a letter to your younger self? Well, I decided to write a letter to younger, reader me.

Look at how young you are, so filled with hope. There wasn’t kindergarten back then and no one pushed their kids to read before school. If you could write your name, and knew where you lived so you could get home, you were good to go to school. So off you went.

I think you had a notebook to write in (wide-lined), some fat pencils, crayons and paste glue. Because everyone knows you need paste to learn how to read. I think the first book you read was Fun with Dick and Jane (not the movie. This Dick and Jane didn’t have that much fun). “Dick. Jane. See Dick run. See Jane run. Run Dick. Run Jane. Run, Dick run.”

It’s a wonder we didn’t all drool on ourselves…

It got better and I’m glad you hung in there, because in third grade the not-loving-reading-yet you was introduced to the after lunch story time. One chapter a day. It was agonizing wading through all that math and science and history to get to the good stuff. Don’t you wish you’d written down the name of that one book? The one with the babysitter and the flash flood? It was very exciting and you always meant to go back and read it again, but you got distracted by the books you hadn’t read yet…

You were introduced to the school library at some point. Back then the librarians were stern and they said, “Sh!” a lot. They looked down on you from the Check-out Desk. You feared and admired them. They sat surrounded by books. Surely they read ALL day. You thought you might like to be a librarian, if you could grow up stern enough and learned how to master the stamp — yes, they stamped books back then. (grin)

They were the gatekeepers to stories. Because of them you “met” Nancy Drew and Cherry Ames. You “were there” with a variety of kids at historical events like the Revolutionary War and the Battle of the Bulge. Because of the library, you learned that you loved action books and romance. Yes, even back then you were drawn to romance. One of your favorite books from “back then” was Jade by Sally Watson. It was awesome. A girl. Sword fighting. Pirates. A romance.

Eventually you found Lord of the Rings and began your transition into adult fiction. Looking back I can see how fortunate you were. We came from a really small town but we had a fairly awesome public library. Remember how big it seemed when you walked in? You didn’t know where to start, so you went to the A’s and eventually worked your way through the whole fiction section. It took a while because at first they’d only let you check out three books at a time. (Do you remember carrying a stack of books home when they finally let you check out more? You’d carry them for a block, then sit on them to rest your arms. Home seemed very far from the library back then.)

In C’s you “met” Elizabeth Cadell. Our mom was a Christie fan, so you already “knew” her and besides, Christie was shelved in Mystery (you wandered there on occasion, but mostly read mystery because of Mom, though you came to love it, too). You hated turning the Cadell books back in when they came due, but take heart because later I collected all her books and I can read them whenever I want. You scored big in H’s. Jane Aiken Hodge, Victoria Holt and Georgette Heyer. Alastair Maclean in the M’s and then another score in the S’s with Mary Stewart. You did good. Found some awesome reads.

I’m glad you went back to A and started again, to see if you missed anything. You found Mary Elgin (she didn’t write enough books!) and The Gordons (That Darn Cat). Well, I could go on and on and on and on. And on. When you looked at that library from your short perspective (no, we didn’t get that much taller), you couldn’t imagine the places you’d go in your reading.

You didn’t know you’d be a reader AND a re-reader. Oh, and an author! You didn’t know the tough times that reading and writing would get you through, or the joys of finding new authors to glom and releasing books out into the “wild.”

Thanks for not giving up. (And if you get this, well cool. Pop me a line when you master that fat pencil. Thanks to books, we also believe in time travel…)


Future Reader Me

So, if you wrote a letter to your past self, what would it be about? 

Perilously yours,