Yesterday, I was saddened to hear of Llama llama author Anna Dewdney‘s recent passing; she died of cancer on Saturday, September 3rd at the age of 50. While her death represents a real loss to the world of children’s literature, for me, it was Dewdney’s final request that I found most moving. She asked that, in lieu of a funeral, people celebrate her life by reading a book to a child. Prior to becoming a children’s author Dewdney had worked as a daycare provider and was a strong advocate for the benefits of reading to children throughout her career. She noted that the benefits of reading to children go beyond the (vital!) need to develop early literacy skills. Because, Dewdney believed, it is through books that most children first learn to see things from other’s perspectives and develop empathy.
I had a strange coincidence in my life that made Dewdney’s passing all the more meaningful for me. This past Saturday, as I was doing some thrift shopping, I came across a mint condition used copy of Llama Llama Misses Mama which I purchased for my 18-month-old niece. She’s a bit young for it — she won’t be ready for school for a few years — but I couldn’t pass it up! I’ve always loved Dewdney’s comforting yet simple messages and playful use of language. She beautifully explained complex concepts and emotions to children in ways that they can understand. To think, that I had picked up one of her books for a child in my life and honoured her final request without even knowing that I was doing this on the very day that she died.
This made a loss into a joyful experience. I could not wait to share the book and it was happily received by the wee one a few days later. Her dad affectionately tells her that her “Auntie Katie” is the book fairy as I nearly always arrive with a new book to share with her. One thing she knows for certain is that I will always take time to read her a story. Often, many, many stories. Lately, I can’t seem to get my shoes off before a book is thrust into my hands. I feel so lucky that I can share my love of books with a little one who loves them just as much as I do.
I cannot think of a better way to honour any author than to read a book to a child. Remember, when you’re reading to a child, you’re doing so much good. You’re sharing a story, you’re teaching empathy, you’re showing them that reading is worthwhile, and you’re reminding them that they matter to you. Plus, if you’re anything like me, you’re elevating your own mood. Story days are happy days.
Whether I’m sharing stories with a large group at story time or reading one-on-one with a child at home, it’s a rewarding experience for all involved. I feel privileged to be able to share my love of reading with the next generation of readers. Here at the WPL we aim to provide, among other things, a wide variety of high quality children’s books, so take the time to read to a child in your life.
So, let’s take Dewdney’s passing as a reminder of what we can do for the children in our own lives. We can teach them so much, and make the feel loved simply by sharing a book (or four). Books are always money well spent but they don’t have to cost anything at all since we provide them free to anyone with a Windsor Public Library Card. It’s a wonderful way to share something special and help foster a lifelong love of reading.