by Sarah Wessell, former Book Harvest board member
I’m not a particularly emotional person, so imagine my surprise- and that of my son- when I found myself standing in the children’s section of my local library clutching Dr. Seuss’s On Beyond Zebra while tears welled up in my eyes.
My son, nine years old, and not quite to the age that a crying mother embarasses him, came to ask why I was sad. “I had this book when I was a little girl,” I said. Puzzled, he looked up at me and asked, “It it a sad book?” “No,” I answered, “it’s a funny book.” “Then why does it make you cry,” he wondered?
Looking down at his sweet face and big brown eyes, eyes that have read more books than I can begin to count, so many books that he can’t remember all of them, I say, “You know when I was a little girl, Grandma didn’t have money to buy us many things. We didn’t have luxuries, only the things we needed to live. So I didn’t have lots of toys like you and your brothers do, or shelves and shelves of books in my room like you guys do. But I had this book- On Beyond Zebra.”
My childhood copy of On Beyond Zebra was weathered and worn from the hands of my six older siblings, but I treasured it. I read it over and over and could (and, as it turns out, still can) recite it from memory. Though I had not seen or even thought of the book in at least 20 years, the sight of it, there on the library shelf, available for any child to borrow and enjoy, brought tears to my eyes.
And that is the power of one book.
If one book can mean that much, consider how an entire personal library of books can change a child’s life.