In a follow-up to our last meeting of the spring session, here is an update from member Cecilia K. on the books collected for war refugee children.
On the afternoon of Sunday, August 13, I found myself back in the basement of The Memorial Park Library in the very same room where I had last presented Andrey Kurkov almost four months ago. This time our room was packed with recent arrivals young and old from Ukraine, all eager to learn English. With Robin’s help I unpacked the books and displayed them just as we had before. Then we settled in to listen to dedicated volunteers in a program called, “Cookies and Conversation” teach newcomers about buying a car, finding a job and counting loose change. The newcomers were highly engaged throughout the afternoon as everyone felt comfortable in asking questions, making mistakes and revealing their own insecurities and anxieties in a new country. A few spoke English relatively well. Some a little. Others not at all. The meeting was casual. Even Robin and I were asked our opinions on finding a used car or counting change. I’m useless at either, but, we offered suggestions and laughed the whole afternoon along with everyone else.
When I was introduced at the start of the meeting, I gave a brief history of the CWLC, then related how our members had so lovingly donated books in order for our newcomers to feel the joy of reading once again. It was then decided it would be best if we shared our books at the conclusion of the meeting. However, while the lively meeting progressed, a little eight year old boy named David, who had been eyeing our books from afar, wandered up to our table and began opening books at random. He handled each book gently, fingering only the top right hand corner when turning a page. I could tell he was a book lover at heart. He was particularly interested in the “Curious George” book with the flip up cartoon pictures. Another young girl shyly approached our table and picked out baby books for her one year old sister, as well as herself. As the meeting concluded it was suggested that we encourage the adults to take home picture books as well, in order to practice reading simple stories at home. This they did! Chaos reined! One woman, about my age, eagerly reached for the “If You’re Not From the Prairie” alphabet book when I held it up. Another young woman picked out the Margaret Atwood novel and proudly showed it to me. And so on. I wish I could tell you how each of your books was so happily received, but you must know they were. And finally, Robin and I said our goodbyes, but not without receiving heartfelt gratitude and a number of bear hugs first. What an exhilarating day!
Thanks again to Cecilia for organizing this, to Robin S. for assisting with book delivery, and to all members who contributed books.
Shawna M. with italicized text by Cecilia K.