Sunday, January 26, 2014

The Love of Reading is a Precious Gift

I had the pleasure this week of delivering children’s books to several early childhood programs.  The daughter of one of our faculty members at LSUHSC Children’s Center collected gently used books as part of her Bat Mitzvah, and then donated the books and other literacy materials to our department.  Some items we kept for our waiting room, but we gave one basket of books to an inclusive child development center, two baskets went to a large Head Start center, and I delivered two baskets of paperback books to the elementary school around the corner from my house.  We are trying to promote in the students at these schools a love of reading--one of the greatest gifts an adult can give a child.

Presenting a basket of books to Goldman Child Development Center
This afternoon I attended a baby shower for the daughter of a dear friend.  The event was filled with conversation, delicious treats and gifts that will welcome baby Grace into the world in a couple of months. 

A suggestion of spring in Louisiana with tulips at each table
Young helpers assist the mom-to-be
Expectant mother poses with her friends while some of us "photo bomb" in the back.

It was lucky the shower was held a couple blocks from my house, because I was getting ready when my sister and mother called from Virginia to chat a few minutes.  They were excited that it was snowing in the mountains, and it looked like they would get several inches before it was over.  My sister said she and her husband were more excited about the prospect of sledding in the afternoon (once it snowed a bit more) than her young grandsons were.

With my mind on children and snow, I decided to review a children’s book that I recently purchased from a new thrift shop in my neighborhood.  As soon as I saw the book, I loved the cover art and the title of the book and the fact the author was a Newbery Honoree.  I brought the paperback home to read before I pass it on to a great-niece or great- nephew.

Ruddy doesn’t always enjoy his visits with his Grandmother Silk.  He loves computers, playing outside and getting dirty.  Grandmother Silk has perfect hair and wears high heels all the time—even her bedroom slippers have high heels.  She doesn’t have a computer and the only television show he can watch at her house is Masterpiece Theater.  She lives next to a lake, but doesn’t like to take walks.  She has a garden full of herbs, vegetables and flowers but only Lucy who comes to cook every day is allowed to pick any vegetables.  Ruddy usually visits in the summer, but this year is different—he has to stay ten whole days in the fall while his parents take a cruise.  The only good thing is his grandmother agrees to buy him a gorilla costume and take him to the zoo for Halloween.
Then, the unexpected happens and a big snow storm hits the night before Halloween.  It knocks down trees, which knocks out the electricity and blocks the roads.  Ruddy and Grandmother Silk have no heat, no lights, no water and no help for days.  They must stay warm with the wood fire places, cook on the gas stove top, haul water from the lake and figure out how to amuse themselves—and they succeed. 
Ruddy observes that Grandmother Silk seems to get softer as the days go by.  Finally electric workers from Kentucky arrive to repair their electric lines.  The storm created such an emergency that workers from all over have been called in to help.  At first Grandmother isn't sure she likes the men from Kentucky but soon she and Ruddy are outside holding a flashlight to help them see, and once power is restored, everyone gathers together for hot chocolate.

This chapter book for young readers is an engaging, sweet story, which was published posthumously in 2003 after Fenner passed away in 2002.  British Illustrator Amanda Harvey provides the delightful and humorous pictures for the book.  Snowed in with Grandmother Silk was named an American Library Association Notable Book, a Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books Blue Ribbon Book, and a Center for Children’s Books Gryphon Honor Book.  It's a perfect book for a snowy day.

Snow today in my mother & sister's neighborhood posted by a friend on FB.


  1. Reading is, indeed, one of the greatest gifts one can give a child. Love that some gently used books are finding new homes!

    Snowed in with Grandmother Silk sounds like a perfect book for winter, even if we have escaped the monster storm that hugged the deep South. I remember an ice storm that hit when I was in the 4th grade in El Dorado and the luxury of a gas stove that worked even though the electricity was out, and my mother making doughnuts, and reading by the window. Good memories for a child. Bet my mother was a wreck with three kids, no heat, and no electricity, but she never let us know it!

    1. There is something magical about being snowed in. Some of my favorite memories also occurred while life was put on hold during snow storms--as a teacher, I was often as excited as the kids when school was cancelled. I have delightful memories of books read, birds fed, long walks through the neighborhood, walking to a small neighborhood store and buying bagels just shipping in from Chicago (when fresh bagels were still a novelty). There were sledding parties, warm fires, being forgotten in a basement classroom while the college shut down because of a blizzard, then being the last car up a hill before a trailer of horses jackknifed and closed the road home. Loved your memories of El Dorado--you never know, maybe your mom enjoyed it as much as you.

  2. this sounds just wonderful. I'll have to look for it. Thank you.

  3. Thanks for following my blog, Teresa. Your blog is lovely, and I was really glad to find that you think it's important that children should love books and reading.

    On my other blog, I've written about a writing project we've been doing with children, called Many of the children who were involved were not used to reading or writing books so it was fascinating to see how creative they were. Don't feel obliged to go there but if you would like to take a look, I'd love to hear your thoughts about it!

    1. Jenny, I did read your other blog and I love the book the children are writing/wrote. The story starters and advance organizers (stories of WW I nurses, real objects) used really focused the children, as well as brought out their creativity. I fully understand that historical accuracy had to be sacrificed in lieu of time, their ages and backgrounds. I love the fact that you started with a personal connection. And I laughed as I read backwards to fully understand the inclusion of fleas on a hospital train. My husband is an RN, so the idea of a nurse having and smuggling flea friends was different. Higher level thinking skills are something receiving a lot of attention in the US right now, with the debate over Common Core standards and how they are being implemented. Supposedly, they are to develop thinking and reasoning/problem solving, etc. but at the sacrifice of any creativity, especially on the part of teachers, as everyone is judged by test scores. I've been an educator my whole life but most recently in early childhood and early childhood special education, but in the beginning I was a reading and literacy teacher. There is a lower performing/ESL school near my house where I would love to volunteer. I have a friend who is a librarian but I always have too many other irons in the fire. How long does this project continue? How is it incorporated into the existing curriculum?