“Now, class, do you know what time it is?” She’d ask us. The teacher had pulled out a chair out to the small carpet area and sat down in front of all the children, who are sitting still–with their legs crossed. She reached into the large canvas bag next to her chair and out of the bag, she took out a large book–not too thick with pages, but big enough for us to see that it was a brightly-illustrated with a woman, mermaids, fairies, and small magical people. “It’s time for Read Aloud!”
And…I really did love Read Aloud time.
That day she introduced the class to Virginia Hamilton’s “Her Stories: African American Folktales, Fairy Tales, and True Tales”–and though I wasn’t sure who was all paying attention or interested in the book–I knew that at least, I was. I hung onto every word, picturing demons making bargains with me, fairies, and though I don’t remember very much about everything now–I do still remember how that book made me feel.
Then, one day, the teacher stopped reading. She said it was time for her to move onto the next book. I asked her why, and she simply told me that it was time for her to return the book to the school library–so, I went down to the library to read the rest myself.
Which surprised the librarians there–because I wasn’t “old enough” to read from what they called, The Teacher’s Section. I wasn’t even allowed to be lingering there. But the kind older women exchanged smiles at one another, looks even–and told me that “they would do something about that”–got me the SAME book–checked it out for me–and whispered, “Now, just make sure to return it, okay?”
And I did.
Then, the librarians would go over to the Teacher’s Section and check out the books about Greek mythology, Japanese folklores, Chinese myths and legends, and so on forth. They would give me recommendations upon recommendations–and I would read them all. And it all started because of “Her Stories: African American Folktales, Fairy Tales, and True Tales.”
That one book made me become a reader, and it was enough to make a huge difference in my life.
It allowed me to travel outside of the classroom and my home, it took me out to meet interesting & unique characters, and it helped me escape boredom with all kinds of adventures. If I remember it correctly, each story in the book ended with a lesson for children–and they were all very clever. I wanted to know about everything, and so, I was encouraged to read more–and finish it, without the teacher.
18 years later, and I still remembered that day.