Books have played a major part in my life. I cannot remember a time I was not a reader. A particular book about a Runaway Pancake was my favorite as a small child. Then, came Winnie the Pooh, Charlotte’s Web, Stuart Little, James and the Giant Peach, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. All the stories and characters captivated my mind and imagination. All the books were read, re-read, and loved, well before the movies were even thought of, let alone actually being produced. I still own my original copies of Wrinkle in Time and The Picture of Dorian Gray. Poe was a favorite, especially The Telltale Heart. The Nancy Drew and Hardy Boy Mystery books occupied a large chunk of my reading time as a pre-teen that preceded the T.V. show in the late 1970’s. When my I was old enough to start a collection with my own money, I began gathering many copies of these two book series that I loved and still cherish. They still sit on the bookshelf in our family room today.
Different books mean different things to me. I have professional nursing books and textbooks, left over from my nursing education that even includes a Neonatal Drug Book that I helped co-author during my first job as a NICU nurse. I have books on education and educational reform – some deemed necessary by self-imposement when I was substitute teaching or advocating for TAG students. I have many books on writing due to leading a writer’s club for elementary students and a love words and the craft of putting them together. Children’s poetry books are among my favorites – Jack Prelutsky, Jeff Moss, Shel Silverstein, and others I have collected over the years or inherited from my mom who taught third grade for an entire generation of students. Last, but most recently used, are my books on the environment, learning styles, habitat, and conservation.
When there is a significant event, I often turn to books as a gift. There is something permanent and meaningful to both giving and receiving a book. I have both given books as gifts and received books as gifts. When I choose to give a book as a gift, I put thought into it. I consider if it is something the person would enjoy or need. Therefore, I assume that when I receive a book the person giving it to me has also thought about the reason they want me to have it. The books I have received have a special place in my heart, as well as on my shelf.
This past June, I ended the garden club I had founded in 2004 at one of our local elementary schools (the school my boys attended as students). I have not had a student of my own in the building for four years, yet I continued to hold the garden club for other students I had grown to care about and want to nurture or enrich. Most, probably over 98%, of our meetings were held in the Library Media Center (LMC) of this elementary school. I appreciated being able to use the space (after reserving it according to district policy) and occasionally some of the technology that was available in the LMC. Having books for reference among our midst during the lessons was a definite bonus! Even if we were going to be outside and working in the garden, our group first met in the LMC at dismissal. I wanted to do something for the library at the end of garden club this June. Something permanent. Something I could leave behind. A book.
I searched. I knew it had to be a newer book that would capture the essence of garden club, environmental awareness, and the imagination of the students. A book that most likely, the library did not yet have. I settled upon Creekfinding by Jaqueline Briggs Martin. Published this past March (2017), it was brand new. It told the story of the purposeful uncovering and rediscovery of an old creek bed in the Driftless region of Northeast Iowa. We live in the Driftless area of Wisconsin. Like the story setting, there are fields of corn around us. Like garden club, the focus was finding nature that may have been buried or forgotten. The illustrations by Claudia McGeHee were vivid. I could see this book appealing to the student body – some of my former garden club students – at Evergreen.
I inscribed the book, thanking the school for “housing” our garden club for so many years, allowing children to uncover the nature that surrounds them. I left it in the library (LMC) on the last day of school. I have not heard anything about the book since I left it on the librarian’s chair with the note of thanks.
Now, almost three months later, I hope. I hope the book I left gets read to the students, either by the librarian or some of the classroom teachers. I hope it serves as a reminder of the club that beautified the school grounds and planted the seed of environmental stewardship in the student body. I hope a curious student finds it on the shelves and checks it out because they already like nature, fish, rivers, or big dirt moving machines. I hope the book makes them like nature even more. This year I can only hope.