You’re Never Too Old to Dream….. or Learn! Have Your Young Readers Find Out About Mary Walker!
Are you young at heart? Hope so.
If not, please read along with your young readers, “The Oldest Student: How Mary Walker Learned to Read,” by Rita Lorraine Hubbard and Caldecott Honor Award winner, Oge Mora.
Your young readers will listen wide-eyed at the 121 years young journey of Mary Walker, before this monumental achievement occurred.
She learned to read.
Word of her accomplishment traveled, and people everywhere celebrated with her. Chattanooga’s mayor, newspaper journalists across the country, and a man from the US Department of Education, who said, “Mrs. Mary Walker, I pronounce you the nation’s oldest student.”
Born a slave on May 6, 1848, Mary’s course in life seemed set as “she picked cotton, toted water, cleaned homes and worked as a blacksmith.”
In “the Author’s Note, it is written that she was emancipated, or freed from slavery at age 15, but “it is a fact that her Bible waited 101 years for her to learn to read it.”
She was married twice and had three sons, one of which served in World War I.
Author Rita Lorraine Hubbard acknowledges freely that she imagined and filled in the details of those intervening years.
But, regardless of the literary license involved, Mrs Mary Walker’s story is downright heart-warming and heartening, as young readers see what life can deal unfairly to you, what obstacles can come your way, and what true grit and determination can accomplish, in never deterring you from a set goal…no matter the time lapse that intervenes.
Mary lived through the election of some twenty-six presidents, and could still walk with only minimal help from a cane when she passed at age 121 on December 1, 1969. She could write her name steadily (probably in cursive and good for you, Mary).
The front and back inside covers are filled with photos of Mary at her first airplane ride, reading from her beloved Bible, reading TO her teacher, Helen Kelley, and even the presentation to Mary of her certificate, by teacher, Helen Kelley, that declared that Mary could READ!
A Junior Guild Literary selection, “The Oldest Student: How Mary Walker Learned to Read” is certainly an example to young readers, who are just beginning on the road to deciphering the squiggly shapes that morph together into words and the words into meaning, to keep at it.
Caldecott Honor winner, Oge Mora, for her HER book, “Thank you, Omu!” has done a wonderful job with her illustrations here in allowing the tenacity and determination of Mary, at each stage of her life, to shine forth in drawings that have substance and strength.
Please listen to Ole Blue Eyes, aka Frank Sinatra, sing this wonderful chestnut written by Johnny Richards with lyrics by Carolyn Leigh from1953, to remind us all how to be as “Young at Heart” as Mrs. Mary Walker.
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