Janai 1Lift For Life Academy junior, Janai Stewart, has been reading in her free time since she was in elementary school.

“I have always loved reading,” said Janai. “In 3rd grade, I finished the entire Harry Potter series, and then I had to move on to something else. I really like reading fantasy books with mythical creatures. I read all different types of books but that’s probably my favorite genre.”

In fact, Janai not only loves delving into the fantasy worlds of the novels that she reads, but she also creates her own stories of magic and mystery.

“Right now, I’m working with [former LFLA English teacher] Mrs. Bogard and [LFLA librarian] Mrs. Steimel to write my own story,” said Janai. “My book is called The Revenge of the Twins, and it is about twins who are half vampire and half angel. With the blood mixed from their parents, it makes them immortal. Then, there’s also a government organization, The Paranormal Bureau of Investigation, who wants to capture them and use their blood to create powerful, superhuman armies.”

When asked about the message that she hopes to communicate through her fiction, Janai points to a few different things that are relevant to the lives of her and her friends.

“No matter how different you are, that doesn’t mean that you aren’t special or aren’t capable of accomplishing something,” Janai explained, in reference to her characters. “Some people have one black parent and one white parent, and they’ll get made fun of because of that. People will say you can’t do this because you’re not really black or you can’t do this because you’re not really white. But my story shows that sometimes your difference can be your strength.”

That idea has held true in Janai’s life as well. In the summer of her 9th grade year, Janai was doing something much different than her peers: going to the library.

“I spent a lot of time at the library near my house that summer,” said Janai. “I started off just going with my sister, and we would read together. So then, my friends were asking me where I was going during the day and I told them. My friends wanted to go, but none of them had library cards, so I went and got a stack of approval forms and handed them out to all the kids on my street and told them to get their mom’s signature. And then, when everyone had their forms signed, I went to the library with them, and all my friends on my street got a library card. After that, we would spend all our time there. After school, we would all go and spend two or three hours there just reading. It was our way of chilling and enjoying time together.”

As a member of the Lift for Life Academy Teen Library Council (TLC), Janai has continued to share her love for reading with her peers. Not only does she believe that it can be helpful for your future, but she also believes that it can help you through the present.

“Say you’re mad, and then you pick up a book,” said Janai. “By the time you finish the first chapter, I bet you won’t even be mad anymore. That’s happened to me a lot when I fight with my sister. Instead of fighting, I’ll pick up a book and cool down. It also helps that you get to see what other people have gone through- whether they’re real or not. In the book I’m reading right now, the protagonist has neighbors that are aliens, her dad died of cancer, her mom was kidnapped by the mom’s boyfriend, and her best friend killed her boyfriend. So really, all of that makes fighting with my sister seem pretty trivial.”

In between getting in trouble for reading too much in class and working her way towards getting a law degree in college, Janai is doing the best she can to continue expanding her worldview in as many was as possible.

“I think reading is important for people my age because it helps you see the world from the eyes of someone else,” Janai explained. “Reading also teaches you ways to deal with situations you’ve never personally been in, or at least, it gets you thinking about it. I think that’s more than worth it.”