Leah from Spring Valley, New York

I was 11 years old.  Oldest of 6.  We had the basics, but not much more.  My mom always saw to it that her abundance of love made up for what was lacking.  Somehow she always managed to have us dressed in something new for the holidays.  I still remember my room, shared with my sisters, of course.  At night I would lie in bed and stare up at the the peeling paint above my head.  From the uneven cracks I would form people and objects in my mind, the way many kids do with the clouds in the sky. (It’s a flower, no, it’s a fish!) I always did have a vivid sense of imagination.

It was a kind neighbor of ours that introduced me to the world outside. She didn’t take us on exotic trips with her family to Italy or Spain.  Not even to Florida.  She offered to take us to a place called the New York Public Library.  Now for immigrant parents who did all they could just to take care of their family, this was a frivolous outing. For us as kids, it was equal to being taken to a Broadway show.  Week after week, after week.

What an experience it was getting my first library card!  I can still recall the smell of the library (Brighton Beach Branch, Brooklyn, NY).  I would sometimes open one of the library books and take a strong whiff - just to be transported back to my favorite place.  We were allowed 10 books per person - and I would take all 10 home.  I can still feel the weight in my arms. The books opened new worlds to me.  Places and people I couldn’t even imagine before then.  I have no doubt that this very experience was the initial step that led me on the journey to conceive ' Touring Teddies', the educational children's gift I created, that encourages reading and learning about the wonderful world we live in.

Nowadays, spending an hour (or a few) at the library remains a treat I love to indulge in. Bookstores are wonderful too, as I actually like to own copies of books that inspire me. However, there is something special about reading from a borrowed book; wondering who before you has perhaps shared and enjoyed the very same read. What world did it open for them? Were they moved, as I was, by the words within its worn pages?

I take great pleasure from bringing up my children with a love for the library and the books found within. It warms my heart to know that in doing so cherished memories are created, that I hope they will share with their own children one day :)