One Book

What are you thankful for this Thanksgiving and holiday season?  The story below helped me to reflect on what I have and what really matters.


I share an office with Tammy, the reading specialist, at my school. This past week,  she called a new 2nd grade student in to administer a reading assessment called the DRA (Developmental Reading Assessment). They sat together at the long rectangular table, Tammy making notes on her paper as she asked the obligatory, scripted questions about reading engagement.

Tammy: Who reads to you at home?

Student: No one

Tammy: Do you own any books at home? How many?

Student: One.

One book!


When they finished the test, Tammy sent the little girl over to me, to “shop.” Over the last few months in my role as literacy coach, I’ve helped to sort and level books that teachers can add to their classroom libraries. We also set some aside for situations such as these, to give to students that have limited books at home.


She walked over and stood before me.

Pink coat, jeans, beads in her hair. Big round eyes.

“How many can I take, she asked?”

“As many as you want.”

As she began to sort through the pile, I inquired casually about her reading interests.

“What kind of books do you like?”

“Dinosaurs,” she answered immediately and I was surprised by her fast response.

She knows what she likes, I thought.

Soon, we had a small collection started. The Berenstein Bears, two dinosaurs books, a picture book of different animals and a pile of board books for her baby sister. Oh and a tattered Golden Book with Santa Claus on the cover.

Raggedy Ann and Andy Help Santa Claus - Little Golden Book

When she found this last one, she lit up and a smile spread across her entire face.

“Ohhh…christmas. Can I take this?”

So we went on like this, sorting though the books together, moving some to her stack, returning the rest to the original pile.

We chitchatted a bit and she shared that she lives with her mom, and aunt, and cousins, and grandmother. A few siblings, younger and older.

In one house.

And they share one book.

One book!


Soon it was time for the girl to go back to class.

“Come on or you’ll be late,” Tammy called.

She started to walk away but then turned back to me, almost shyly.

“Will you be my friend?” she said.

I nodded yes, and then she moved towards the door, waiting for Tammy.

“Thank you,” she said to me from across the room and waved.

In her hands she held two plastic bags, overflowing with not one book, but many books.

I waved back and then she followed Tammy back to class, the door clicking quietly shut behind them.


I’m thankful for many things this holiday season, including:

This 2nd grade girl, for reminding me how of lucky I am and of the power of books, in general.

For her classroom teacher, the reading specialist, and all of the other teachers at my school and throughout Philly, who help students like this child every day, teaching them to read and write – and to develop a love for both – even in the most difficult of circumstances.

To my own children at home, for letting me read to (and with) them, so I can discover and rediscover new and old favorites, like these:


And to my mom, who is the first person that gave me the gift of reading and all things literacy, who took me to the library on an almost weekly basis, where I came home with a pile not much different than the one that this girl carried out of my office.

Thanks, Mom.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.



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