A few days ago I stood in line at the Flicks Theater in downtown Boise placing an order. As I finished, the woman just behind me reached out to me, her face was alight with pleasure, and she said, “Aren’t you the library lady from Boise Library?”
I smiled back and nodded. She responded, “Do you remember my little boy I brought in the stroller to the story hour 32 years ago?” I answered, “Of course, where is he now?” Why he is in medical school at Columbia University, and before that he was teaching science in high school in New York. “How wonderful,” I responded. “Books have always been very important to him. When he was in the Peace Corps he was shocked that none of the children where he worked had any books.”
“That is sad,” I agreed. “Be sure to tell him I asked about him and wish him well.”
Two years ago when I was an adjunct professor teaching Children’s Literature at BSU, I was attending a conference on Early Learning at Boise State University when I had a similar experience.
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A woman came over and bent down so she was face to face with me at the table where I sat during a break and said, “Is that you Susannah? Do you remember Dougie from the toddler program at the library?” I was so pleased to see her about 25 years later and to learn that Dougie is now an attorney.
Just before I retired from managing the children’s and teen programs at Boise Public Library, I discovered the grandparents of many of the babies enrolled in my baby programs were the parents of children who had been past attendees. Many new parents were also past attendees. They all had very fond memories of the library programs and other experiences attending them and the puppet shows provided monthly. Not only that, they all had a firm belief in the value of sharing books and literacy activities with children in their first years — from several months old through five years, before they were in school, and thereafter.
I have heard so many success stories shared by parents, grand parents, aunts and uncles, and dedicated child care givers.
Some of the young people who attended teen programs at the library also chose the library as their favorite place to meet their friends when they were home from college on holiday.
In more recent years I have heard from people of many professions across the nation how important they feel early education is and how much they support it, often through their business. They know the value it is for our nation and society in later years — an investment that pays over and over again.
Those of you who believe this is important need to be sure to communicate that message to our legislators very soon. They have a duty to ensure that education at all levels receives the funding needed to succeed .
Susannah Price, a native of Boise, was manager of youth services at Boise Public Library for over 30 years and recently an adjunct professor in the Literacy, Education Department at Boise State University.