Newbery Medals and Memories
When I was a little girl, the Scholastic Book Fairs were open both during the school day, and during the evenings for the parent-teacher conferences. The silver cases were carefully spaced in a prime spot in the lobby of Brookhaven Elementary School, their doors were open arms full of brightly colored books.
I loved browsing the book fair, both during the day and in the evening. My dad's work day was long, with a daily commute to and from Queens, so my mom had to drag all four us to the conferences. We were threatened within an inch of our lives to be on our best behavior during the conferences- especially since we were left in the hallway while she met with our teachers. I still don't know how my mom managed to handle four different teachers in three different grade levels (my brothers are twins) over the course of one night; she never took notes, yet remembered everything the teachers said about each of us, and was able to pull up specific examples of our work to prove her point.
Our reward for good behavior was to choose books from the book fair. It was miraculous: picking up books, flipping through them, taking in the words and pictures, and adding them to the pile by the cashier. As we were looking for our own books, my mom would do her own shopping: Newbery Books. My mom didn't know anything about children's literature: she never taught, never attended college, never subscribed to literary journals. She didn't know anything about John Newbery, but when she saw the gold and silver medals adorning the covers of the books, she knew that those books had merit, so she chose those books for us to read. The often ended up wrapped in brightly colored Christmas paper and placed under the Christmas tree.
The four of us grew up reading Newbery Books without realizing they were famous, award-winning books. We just knew we loved them: Charlotte's Web, Roller Skates, Ginger Pye, Strawberry Girl, Justin Morgan had a Horse, Knee Knock Rise, Ramona Quimby Age 8, The Sign of the Beaver, Sarah, Plain and Tall, The Whipping Boy. . . the list goes on.
I don't know if my parents knew the power of the gift that they have given to the four of us: the love of reading. We all read, all the time, anything that we can get our hands on. . . our houses are filled with books, our hearts are filled with gratitude.