Word by word. Page by page. Book by book. These are the bricks we use to build children's libraries in domestic violence shelters.
BOOK BY BOOK CAPITAL CAMPAIGN COMMITTEE
Gail Ross, Esq.
Trister, Ross, Schadler and Gold
President, Ross Yoon Agency
CEO, Jewish Foundation for Group Homes
Author & Journalist
New York, N.Y.
Robin Preiss Glasser
Illustrator, Fancy Nancy
Orange County, Calif.
President, Little Egg Publishing Company
National Public Radio; Founder of the Race Card Project
Chief Inspiration Officer and Co-Founder, The Crave Bar & TwistWorks Consulting
Director, First Book Marketplace and National Book Bank
Perry Pidgeon Hooks
President & Co-founder, Hooks Books
Author and Journalism Professor
Executive Editor of Nonfiction, Simon & Schuster
New York, N.Y.
Co-Founder, NO MORE
New York, N.Y.
Publisher, Spiegel and Grau/Random House
New York, N.Y.
PR Manager, Verizon Wireless
Michigan, Indiana, Ky.
O Positive, Inc.
Remarks by author Judith Viorst at a National Library Initiative fundraiser
Washington, D.C., June 24, 2015
"I am so pleased to be here today on behalf of this wonderful library project, both as a writer and reader of books and as a passionate user of public libraries. Libraries were the sanctuary of my childhood — my magic carpet. My wonderland, my holy place. I consumed books the way I consumed Hershey’s kisses — never once feeling so full that I didn’t want another… and then… another… and yet another. The joys of reading, nurtured by the welcoming librarians of northern New Jersey, is a joy that has stayed with me all my life.
Putting children’s libraries into domestic violence shelters is a beautiful and powerful idea — a way to create a sanctuary, a place of calm and comfort where reading and being read to can, as Shakespeare once more or less said on another subject, help knit up the raveled sleeve of care.
As the mother of three and the grandmother of seven, I’ve been drafted, over the years, into a lot — a lot! — of school classrooms in Washington, and New York, and Colorado, and whatever else I’ve said to kids on the subject of reading and writing, I always throw in a commercial about the many pleasures that can be found through books. Here’s what I tell them:
With a book you are never alone. You will always have somebody—or something—to keep you company.
Books can teach you amazing things you never knew before, some of which will utterly astound you.
Books can take you anywhere and everywhere in the world, and out of the world. To jungles, forests, deserts, mountains, oceans. To Mars, the moon, and Hogwarts, Oz, and Narnia. Back to very long ago and forward into all sorts of strange tomorrows.
Books will let you live, for a while, all kinds of different lives — as a pirate, a princess, a wizard, a spy, a tree.
Books can be as beautiful as a rainbow, as exciting as riding a zip line about the Grand Canyon, as delicious as hot fudge sundaes with whipped cream and nuts. They can also be really scary and seriously sad, and so funny you’ll laugh till you fall right off your chair.
I then read this poem, a poem I wrote a while back, for National Library Week. It’s called 'My Oh-Wow! Book.'
I’m lying here and I’m sick in bed
With this terrible, horrible pain in my head
And these funny bumps that my ma says look
Like the chicken pox. And my — OH WOW! Book.
And some Bandaids —s ix — for the spots I hurt
Where I fell on stones when I missed the dirt
And my — OH WOW! — book, and my swollen thumb
That the door slammed on, and this aching stomAch
from fifths on root beer and thirds on pie
And my — OH WOW! — book that I’m not gonna die
Till I finish.
Books can be dearly loved for their Oh-Wow stories, for making readers feel—I can’t put it down! I can’t stop reading now! I can’t eat dinner, or brush my teeth, or get in my pjs for bed until I find out what will happen next!
Books also can be loved for the very opposite of their what’s gonna happen next charms — for their repetitiveness, that soothing sense of hearing and then anticipating the same, the very same words — the great green room, the red balloon, the picture of the cow jumping over the moon — over and over, and over and over, again.
And books can be very dearly loved for confirming the legitimacy of various feelings that young readers feel — their worries, their day dreams, their loneliness, their sorrows, their naughty thoughts — as naughty as Max’s in Where the Wild Things Are, even as naughty as the boy in Shel Silverstein’s wicked poem Prayer of the Selfish Child, a boy who outrageously and oh, so deliciously, prays:
Now I lay me down to sleep.
I pray the Lord my soul to keep.
And if I die before I wake.
I pray the Lord my toys to break.
So no other kid can play with them.
How comforting to know you’re not the only kid in the world who’s sometimes selfish. Or competitive. Or envious. Or angry. Or even mean.
How comforting to know you’re not the only kid in the world who’s embarrassed himself by stepping in the dog poop. How comforting to learn, through the magic of books, that in spite of all the differences — the many many difference between us — boys and girls everywhere share a common humanity.
'Dear Alexander,' so many boys and girls have written to me over the decades, 'I have bad days too. They happen to everyone.'
Reading aloud to children is surely one good way to examine these shared experiences. Which is one of the reasons I am, and continue to be, a very big fan of reading aloud to kids, of reading to them even after the boys have grown facial hair and the girls have developed breasts. And though that kind of reading scenario probably isn’t happening much these days, reading to younger children certainly is. And these shelter children’s libraries have provided, and will continue to provide, a cozy place to do exactly that.
Such readings can make for some unforgettable moments between a parent and a child. For me, such a moment, perhaps the most precious of my read-aloud memories, was when my son, Alexander, age 6, was sitting on my lap while I read him E.B. White’s glorious Charlotte’s Web, where — if you recall — Wilbur the radiant pig, was in serious danger of being cruelly slaughtered. Alexander, overwhelmed with love and concern for poor, doomed Wilbur, wriggled and squirmed on my lap in great distress, and finally, in a desperate effort to comfort the poor pig, he bent down his head and… kissed the illustration.
Children reading books and parents reading books to children can serve as a magic wand, an open sesame. By fostering their sense of connection and empathy, by confirming the legitimacy of their feelings, by expanding their world and their imagination. The libraries that this marvelous group of women has created and is creating have the potential to transform children’s lives.