As a child I was one of the lucky ones. Every night, my parents read to me. They both valued reading and children’s books a great deal. My dad was a principal, and my mom was a paraeducator in the library of my elementary school. She made sure I had a steady diet of Beverly Cleary, Judy Blume, and Roald Dahl. I grew up appreciating books, but it wasn’t until my children’s literature course in college that I felt transformed. The storybooks of my youth looked different and I felt I was reading them through new eyes. The eyes of a teacher.
My newly discovered love for children’s books coupled with what I brought with me from my childhood remained steadfast in my heart when I became a parent to four daughters. One by one as they joined our family, I didn’t waste any time introducing each of them to their first books before they could speak a word, turn a page, or take steps to the bookshelf to choose a bedtime story. Goodnight Moon, Where’s Spot?, and Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? were constant companions and beloved favorites of every daughter.
When my daughters spent time at my parent’s house, reading with their grandma, whom they lovingly called “Meme,” was always something they counted on when at her house. Her lap was always ready for a granddaughter to sit in, and her book bin was always well stocked with favorite titles. If you got to spend the night at Meme’s house, it always involved comfort food & snacks, craft projects, and always reading together.
My mom’s love for children’s books extended to the children at Hedges School, where, as the librarian’s paraeducator, she was a passionate advocate for children’s literature for two decades. Teachers and students loved Mrs. Graham and could always count on her patience and kindness in assisting them with anything they needed. Her appreciation for literacy and her belief in its positive impact for children brought her great joy and satisfaction.
Last year after a brief but courageous battle with dementia, we very sadly said goodbye to my mom. Shortly after her passing, I found myself reflecting on the things that were important to her, and books, specifically children’s books came immediately to my mind. We set up a memorial fund with which we would purchase books for the library where she faithfully worked, joyfully sharing her love of literature with the students at Hedges School.
I have found and chosen the books, and all 45 of them are ready to be shared at last! How I wish she were here to pick up each book and unearth the treasure that waits inside every single one. I know she would have loved them all, and would have carefully matched each book to a student who, in turn, would treasure the story inside. Each book has a special memory label inside with my mom’s picture, so every reader knows of her love for children, and the importance of great literature in their lives.
I am incredibly blessed to be teaching at Hedges. Every once in awhile, I find myself perusing the bookshelves of our library, occasionally opening a book and seeing her handwriting on an old library card pocket on the inside cover; a joyful reminder that her presence somehow is still here with me, as it is with each student who searches the bookshelves to discover the amazing stories waiting for them.
This is my first of what I hope will be many more Tuesday Slice of Life posts. Thank you to all of the teacher/writers at Two Writing Teachers who make this platform available to educators of all backgrounds where we can unearth the writers inside of each of us!