Since childhood, I have been instilled with the importance of having a proper respect for books. Growing up, there were dire consequences for ripping or bending pages, drawing or writing on pages, chewing or in any other way defacing a book. There were hundreds of books in our house, and from day one I was taught to be gentle with them. Books are for reading, not destroying. A child who knows how to respect a book will find it easy to have proper respect for just about anything or anybody.

So when I was eight and my teacher first suggested that I highlight a verse in my Bible, I threw a fit. I was conflicted. I didn’t mark in books. I certainly didn’t take a bright yellow highlighter to a book, especially not The Bible. Bookmarks, fine. But not a bright yellow marker. To do so went against everything I had been taught about books and how to treat them, and the very thought made me want to cry.

I was a very emotional child.

College has done a lot to change that way of thinking, however. I first started making the switch to an avid book-highlighter when I took first semester Abnormal Psychology in summer school a few years back. I was bombing quizzes left and right, and I was freaking out. My dad recommended that I highlight important terms and phrases so I could remember them better later. At first, my inner book-conscious eight-year-old stiffened her spine and refused to consider the idea. But I compromised and started using a pencil to faintly underline the important bits. I was remembering more, and I could always go back and erase the lines later.

Well, as things often go with me, I soon found myself underlining in pen. That commitment accomplished, I soon graduated to a highlighter and made big yellow strokes over everything even remotely important.

It took me longer to accept the reality that underlining, highlighting, and note-taking in a book was a helpful study tool. It felt weird to the point of being “unholy”. No one had ever told me it was wrong. In fact, all of my role models had books so thoroughly marked that there was hardly an unannotated page to be found in their favorite books.

For me it began as a matter of convenience. Despite careful planning, I don’t always have a notebook with me when I need to write something down. Suddenly I’d be hit with some inspiration  and need to write something about it down, and the only paper available was—gulp­­—the pages of my books.

I took the plunge. I painstakingly wrote whatever it was that needed writing down in the margins of my prized reference books. At first in pencil. Then in pen. Now with bright blue ink to match the cover.

Now that I know how helpful it can be to mark up a textbook, I do it all the time. But my inner eight-year-old book-lover still cringes at the thought that I’m writing in a book.