Kofi Annan wrote that “Literacy is a bridge from misery to hope. It is a… vehicle for the promotion of cultural and national identity… For everyone, everywhere, literacy is, along with education in general, a basic human right…. Literacy is, finally, the road to human progress and the means through which every man, woman and child can realize his or her full potential.”
In honor of International Literacy Day, our team is recalling our favorite books from years past. Have a look at some of our favorites, and remember what books made an early impact on YOU!
Aabha, Development and Grants Manager
I don’t have a favorite book. Just childhood authors I read in the order of aging. Famous Five, Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, Agatha Christie, Perry Mason, Allister Maclean, John Le Carre…argh, I am seeing a criminal pattern here!
Chris, Director of Resource Development
Prydain Chronicles by Lloyd Alexander –The adventures of Taran and his companions gave me a wonderful world to live in, including enchanted harps and powerful swords, but also unlikely heroes who were willing to make sometimes painful sacrifices.
David, Operations Manager
A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole. I had never read a book whose main character fascinated and shocked me as much as Ignatius J. Reilly. The mishaps and adventures and sayings and beliefs of this man kept me captivated throughout this novel and I loved it.
Dianna, Development Associate
My favorite book is Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. It was one of the first books I read that, even though it was fiction, gave me new insight into the world while also raising so many questions. I have revisited it several times, and find that it still does that. I find it truly timeless and potent.
Gwendolen, Artistic and Education Director
My favorite book of all time is The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison. The beauty of Morrison’s words that tell a painful, poignant story of growing up girl and Black is riveting and powerful!
Helen, Early Learning Program Director
I Married Adventure by Osa Johnson was probably the first “true travel” reading I did – 6th grade? 7th grade? It was in the house I was staying at in New Hampshire. It had a cool zebra patterned cloth binding! The author wrote about her worldwide adventures with her photographer husband. What wasn’t to love?
Joey, CAT Youth Theatre Associate Program Director
Strega Nona by Tomie dePaola. I loved it because I love my Nana. Also, when my 1st grade teacher read it to us we got to eat spaghetti. I love pasta and I love to experience art through doing & interactive learning!
Katherine, Adolescent Literacy Program Director
Charlotte’s Web, by E. B. White (4th grade); Hook by Geary Gravel (7th Grade); Snow in August, by Pete Hamill (as an adult) – Because they all tickled and pushed my imagination. They are all delicious books.
Keith, College and Adult Program Director
My favorite book as a child is the Five Chinese Brothers by Bishop and Wiese. It is a story about five identical quintuplets who lived with their mother. They all processed individual talents that saved the family from extinction. I first read it at 6 years old and cherished it until 6th grade. I did about four book reports on it during elementary school. I was a very shy child so I believe I identified with the theme of overcoming obstacles, recognizing your special gifts and using it to outwit the enemy anonymously to survive. At 12 years old, I read The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Alex Haley. This book changed my life by clarifying my confusion and frustration of being a black male in America in the early 70’s. It gave me a sense of identity, pride and understanding of where I sit in society and a lens to understand my father’s perspective. Between being a first generation Caribbean, the civil rights movement, the media and a bias education this book was necessary. For me it was the beginning of pouring out shame and living unapologetically in my skin. It was the perfect book to focus my adolescent stage and so I passed it on to my children’s JHS freshman reading list.
Lexy, Early Learning and After-School Projects Director
The book we love is Goodnight Goon: A Petrifying Parody, by Michael Rex. It’s a spin on Goodnight Moon. It’s just crazy fun and weird, like [my daughter] Delilah. Probably why she likes it so much, LOL!
Michael, MA in Applied Theatre, Assistant Director
Phantom Tollbooth, by Norton Juster. Love the adventure and the outrageous puns.
Nan, Development Associate
The Little Engine that Could by Watty Piper, Illustrated by George and Doris Hauman, was my most memorable book as a child. It is a story of true encouragement and determination, and the images of the Little Blue Engine struggling up the hill to bring fresh milk, green spinach, and red and white peppermint candies to the children on the other side of the mountain will always stay with me.
Nancy, Director of Finance and Administration
When I was in 5th grade, it was The Black Stallion by Walter Farley – because it kept my interest and filled my imagination.
Nassib, Finance Manager
I started studying English as a second language at the age 13. Ironically, my first story was The Frog Prince, by the Brothers Grimm, it was the only suitable story for my English level!
Nicole, Early Learning & After-School Program Assistant; MA in Applied Theatre Student
My favorite was Where The Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein. I loved the imaginative and strange worlds created in this book. I memorized some of my favorite poems and would act them out for my friends.
Rachel, Operations Director
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, because I related to the story and it spoke to my roots in New York. For my son, we loved reading Where the Wild Things Are, which signaled a milestone for us because it was the first time HE started recalling story text.
Taahira, Health Educator
My favorite book was The Very Hungry Caterpillar. This book was my favorite because I loved the pictures and I was a greedy little one. Everything the caterpillar wanted to eat I wanted to have too after having this book read to me in Pre-K.
Tessa, Operations Assistant
I am a child of the Harry Potter generation so that is my choice, Go Gryffindor! As to why- It was the first reading experience where I became completely engrossed in a world that existed strictly on paper. I am an avid reader today and that all began with Harry Potter. I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes from the series: “It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”
For me, as for several of us, it’s nearly impossible to choose – there were so many favorites over the years. Throughout a difficult childhood, books were my friends and my escape. I think, because of this, the most impactful ones for me were those that indulged the escapism, the otherness and the venture into different worlds. The Chronicles of Narnia were, of course, influential; I wrote Narnia-esque stories and looked for entry to another world in every cabinet that I encountered. Early on, I discovered the deeper, darker worlds created by the likes of Bradbury (I re-read Something Wicked This Way Comes nearly every year), King, Zelazny and Tolkien, and I still spend sleepless nights revisiting those (and other) magical realms. Programs like Reading Rainbow and movies like The Neverending Story fed that desire to climb right into stories, and, of course, the poetry of Dr. Seuss, Eugene Field, and Shel Silverstein have always tugged at my imagination, and my heart.
Listen to the MUSTN’TS, child.
Listen to the DON’TS.
Listen to the SHOULDN’TS,
The IMPOSSIBLES, the WON’TS.
Listen to the NEVER HAVES,
Then listen close to me…
Anything can happen, child.
ANYTHING can be.
– Shel Silverstein
Thank you for reading!