Books Matter: A story about our latest DonorsChoose contribution.


For a while when I was young, I was addicted to books about a very particular type of girl in a very particular time: the early 1960s (think Sally Draper without the dysfunctional parents). This girl lived in Colonial two-story house with a big elm tree in front and a treehouse in back. She wore fresh, new Levi's with rolled-up cuffs and plaid shirts. She had twinkly eyes and wore her long, straight hair in a ponytail that swung when she walked. Her mom was lovely and sweet and wore pretty dresses while she entertained. Her dad taught at the local college and took her fishing and birdwatching on weekends.

The girl read books every minute she could, and when she wasn't reading she was hanging out with her best friend, usually a boy, coming up with some creative adventure, like starting a neighborhood newspaper or drawing anti-littering posters and hanging them around the school. Her classmates loved her. Her teachers loved her. She was happy.

At the time I was reading these books, my life couldn't have been any different. We lived in an apartment in the suburbs. We had a concrete patio instead of a yard. My mom was bedridden. My dad was always traveling trying to make enough money to keep up with my mom's medical bills. My classmates were all way wealthier than I was, and I was embarrassed to invite them over. I did well in school, but I never felt I fit in anywhere.

I was often sad.

Except when I was reading.

When I was reading, I could see myself, feel myself, walking through the world with that Brady-Bunch-girl straight hair and my name-brand jeans and parents who where present enough to really know me. It was such a relief.

I still don't have a Colonial house. And though I'm now a mom, I still prefer Levi's to pretty dresses. But those books changed how I saw myself and who I thought I could be. They made me a reader. A writer. A thinker.

So that's why this month, Story House has donated to Mrs Smith's classroom down in San Fernando, California. She's committed to finding books that her students really want to read (as she says, books that they "ooh" and "ahh" over). I hope our small donation helps even one of her kids find a book that inspires him.

photo from