When I was growing up in Madison, WI, there was a wonderful children’s bookstore on Monroe Street called Pooh Corner. It’s been gone for decades, sadly, but I still can remember the way it felt to grab a book and plop down on the carpet to read it. When I was little, the real bear doll that A.A. Milne’s son Christopher owned was on display in the store (and secured in a bank vault at night). Pooh Corner wasn’t just a store but both a second home and a wonderland for book-loving kids like me. I would beg my mom to stop the car and let us go in whenever we drove past.
In fifth grade, I loved to write and illustrate stories. (A lot of them were about opinionated bunnies, for some reason.) Sometimes these stories probably distracted me from whatever the actual lesson was. But my fifth-grade teacher, Mrs. Gerlach, always encouraged my creativity. Sometimes she’d ask for more, telling me that she loved to read what I came up with. It made me feel so proud of myself, and it spurred me to keep creating. I still have an assignment from that class on which we had to write our goals–I wrote that when I grow up, I wanted to publish a book. Mrs. Gerlach made me feel like that was totally something I should do, and she’d be cheering for me as I tried.
Like a lot of shy and bookish kids, middle school was a place where I rarely felt comfortable. One big exception was my middle school’s library. I knew that whenever I walked in, I would get both a hug and a new book to read from Mrs. Holt. She always had something waiting behind the desk for me, and she every book she put in my hands was curated especially for my reading tastes. She would even order certain books for the library because she thought I (or my best friend, Megan) would like to read them, which made us feel like Very Important Readers. Even if I dreaded going back to school in the fall, I couldn’t wait to get back to the library and see which books Mrs. Holt had found for us over the summer.
So among the many things I’m grateful for this time of year, I’m thankful for booksellers, teachers, and librarians. Partly for how they support authors like me now, but mostly for how they use literacy as a tool for compassion, acceptance, creativity, and growth. Turning kids into readers is a great thing.
I’m posting this as part of the Class of 2K14’s Thanksgiving blogfest. Check out what other debut authors are giving thanks for on our website: www.classof2k14.com