Unexpected Bonuses

By Carey Sharpe, Book Harvest volunteer

When I first started volunteering at Book Harvest I was delighted to be involved with an organization that was so close to my heart. What could be more rewarding than the facilitation of getting books into the hands of young readers! I did not know there would also be unexpected bonuses for me personally.

In my early days at Book Harvest as I was learning how to sort books, my mentor, volunteer Ann McMillon , encouraged me to read stories to evaluate their content and age appropriateness. This was like music to ears. As a former teacher, I adored spending time reading children’s literature. What a bonus to have a job where this is actually valued!

While sorting books last week I came upon the book, Flicka Ricka and Dicka and the New Dotted Dresses. I had not seen it since I was 8.

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Pictured: Carey (L) with her “book sorting mentor,” Ann (R)

That night I borrowed this book from Book Harvest. I wanted to sit quietly and read it so I could remember the initial appeal it held for me. A host of memories came flooding back. I remember my family had moved from Newark, New Jersey to Chicago, Illinois in February of my 3rd grade year. I remember battling to make new friends and being behind in every subject level, especially reading. I remember feeling self-conscious as I struggled to catch-up. Flipping through the pages of this book I remember the sweet illustrations of the new dotted Swiss dresses belonging to these 3 sisters. (My sisters and I used to dress alike in similar dresses but ours were blue.) The girls of this story kindly helped an old woman but in doing so they struggled to keep their dresses looking new.

I remember how delighted I was to discover that there was a whole series of stories about these 3 Swedish girls. I remember picking a different one at my library every week. I also remember being devastated when my teacher remarked, “these are baby books, and you need to pick books that are more challenging.” Secretly I knew I would find a way to keep reading these books which gave me such joy.

When I became a teacher I realized my battles to become a strong reader are not uncommon for many children. It can be a struggle to make that leap from reading individual words on a page to gliding through whole sentences. It can be particularly daunting when facing other outer challenges. Books do so many jobs. They can boost us up over everyday hurdles.That is what the Flicka Ricka and Dicka series did for me. They gave me a sense of calm, a sense of warmth, a sense of belonging and even a sense of success. Of course when I have thought about these books over the years I was sure they were out of print. When I found this book I was thrilled to be reunited with my old friends. Thank you Book Harvest for the unexpected opportunity to reconnect with so many memories of my early reading experiences.