For today’s note, I thought I would do a little change of pace. A long while back my co-auther Elliot Kirschner had the idea of doing a children’s picture book. I was reluctant, but agreed to give it a try. We worked through a topic and language, trying to get the cadence just right. We got a draft and showed it to a few people in the publishing business, but it didn’t go anywhere. Well, we thought, let’s give it at least a little light of day and pull it from the vaults. So it forms the bulk of our content today.
Reading to children is one of the great steadying activities of life. Masters of the children’s book are true artists, often painting with a mixture of images and words. In the comments section, please feel free to share some of your favorite children’s books or stories about reading to children or grandchildren, or of when you were a child and you were on the receiving end of those magical connections.
When I was a little boy, I lived in a small house, on a small street, at the edge of a small city.
The road in front of my house was made of dirt. And across it were forests that kept going and going. I never could imagine walking to the other side.
My neighborhood was not a fancy place. But in the middle of our little houses was a building that looked like it belonged in a fairy tale. It was even more magical on the inside.
Everywhere I looked I saw my favorite thing in the whole world: books.
“Can we please go to the library?” I begged my mom. Almost every day.
The world outside the library was not a very happy place. There were not enough jobs for all the grownups. Many people were hungry and sad. It was called the Great Depression.
But inside the library, I was happy. Books took me to far away places. I read, and read, and read,
My favorite books were about heroes from the olden days. I liked to learn about how they helped people in need.
I had my very own hero, the librarian. She was always sending me home with so many books I could barely carry them.
One day she asked me, “Danny, do you want to see the BIG library?”
A library bigger than this? I couldn’t believe my ears.
When the day came, we had to take three different buses. It was the furthest away I had ever been from my home.
When we got there, I saw the library really was big. Very big. I thought there must be more books inside than stars in the night sky.
We walked up the steps and I felt like a little prince.
“Danny, please show the lady your library card.”
I carefully pulled my card out of my pocket. It was a magic ticket that allowed me to go inside.
My family didn’t have a lot of money but everything I ever wanted to know was here for me to read. For free.
Not everyone could go to the big library. Black children and adults had to go to different libraries that were not very big, or very nice. This made me angry. And sad. Books should be for everyone.
It wasn’t just libraries. There were a lot of places Black people couldn’t go just because of the color of their skin. This made me even more angry. And more sad.
When I grew up, I wanted to let everybody know the difference between right and wrong.
I became a reporter. My job was to explain to people what was going on. After reading other people’s stories. I was telling my own.
I traveled to many places and met many interesting people. Heroes aren’t just in olden times. I love to tell their stories.
Many heroes use words to make the world better. And many of them learned to love words and stories just like I did, at the library.
Did you know there are libraries all over the world? And some are really, really, really big.
I no longer live in the city where I grew up. When I go back I see a lot has changed.
The little home where I lived with my family is long gone. The forests that went on forever have been turned into streets and houses. The little city has become a very big city, full of lots of different kinds of people living together.
And many heroes worked very hard to make sure everyone can go to the big library.
One thing hasn’t changed. My old library is where it always was, just as I remember it.
I still think it is one of the most beautiful buildings I have ever seen. And it still has the magic to take little girls and boys out into a big and beautiful world.
Editor’s Note: Some of you in the comments section have asked for a picture of “Danny’s” childhood library. Here it is. It is in The Heights neighborhood in Houston, Texas.
my daughter's teacher asked me to see her...she explained that she knew my daughter knew how to read but she was refusing to do so and asked me to explore the reason....when i inquired my daughter said, "oh, mommy, if you know that i know how to read you will stop reading to me every night and that would make me so sad" i responded "oh, honey, we will read together...i will read one page and then you will read the next....we will share reading the book to each other"
and that's what we did!
When I was a child I lived with my mother and grandmother. “Nanny “ was a voracious reader and she began reading to me by the time I could sit up. I was reading on my own by my fourth birthday so she and I started taking the bus to the nearest library once a week. The ladies at the Heights library in Houston soon got to know me and would often suggest books I might like. By the 2nd grade I was reading with the fourth graders and by ten I was reading Booth Tarkington’s Penrod and Penrod and Sam. I loved the Poppy Ott series and of course Laura Ingalls Wilder. I have Nanny and the ladies at the Heights library for encouraging me to read . I still do most days. I think the greatest gift you can give a child is the ability to read. As a poor child growing up I could only dream about the places I read about. As an adult I have been fortunate to visit some of those places. I still find magic in the books I read. Thank you Nanny. Thank you library ladies.