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LeVar Burton’s Memories Of A Military Childhood

Reading Rainbow's Levar Burton reflects on growing up in a military family.

This post is cross-posted from the blog of Reading Rainbow. See the original post here.

LeVar Burton of Reading Rainbow

One of my most indelible memories from childhood comes from when my dad was stationed overseas in Germany when I was a kid. It wasn’t always easy living on base, where we didn’t have access to the most recent American movies, books, T.V. shows—all those pop-culture staples so important to schoolchildren. But that lack of access meant that the cultural staples we did have access to were devoured, treasured…and eventually bartered. American cultural items were currency to a military child, and the most valuable of that currency was comic books.

When you lived on base, weekdays were for school, Sundays were for family, but Saturday mornings would find every kid out in the stairwells of the multi-story building we lived in, bartering and trading comic books. Each kid would set up “shop”, and the trading would begin. Imagine a cacophony of children’s voices and footsteps, running up and down from landing to landing, checking out each other’s supply, haggling over trades, eyes peeled for the newest issues and acquisitions. Each comic had a different value depending on the superhero, the child, and the household he or she lived in. You might be able to trade two Spidermans for one Batman, for example, or one new issue for two or three older issues.

Eventually the trading would conclude—every kid happy with the trades they had made, or if not, there was always next week—and we would all go home to read the spoils of our bartering. If you were lucky you had enough to get you through the week to next Saturday. It was this experience as a child in a military family, and the excitement, comfort, and escape the comics provided, that helped spark my lifelong love of reading. Years have passed since those mornings spent trading comics on base, but the memory is as strong as ever.

When a parent serves his or her country in the military, they don’t serve alone; their families and children serve as well. This week, in honor of “The Month of the Military Child,” we recognize the families and children of the men and women who serve in our Armed Forces.

LeVar Burton was the host of the PBS children's television series Reading Rainbow, and is now the co-founder of RRKidz, Inc.