Most avid readers have the one book that changed their lives.
For Lisa Laesch-Vanstone, it’s “Sarah, Plain and Tall” by Patricia MacLachlan.
Laesch-Vanstone, a children’s librarian at Farmington Community Library’s Farmington Hills department, was 8 years old when her mother died. A group of teachers at her elementary school gave her a basket of books at the funeral in an attempt to give her comfort.
One of these books was “Sarah, Plain and Tall.”
She guesses she has read her beloved copy of the book, which follows two siblings as they deal with their mother’s death and their father’s new marriage seven or eight times. Even as an adult, it gives her a sense of peace, just holding on to the little novel.
“As another class who did not really realize the seriousness of the situation I was put in, it gave me a perspective on what this family unit looked like and how it is OK to have these strange feelings when someone else comes in, “Laesch – said Vanstone. “I feel like it prepared my heart for other people to mother me in the future.”
March is National Reading Month and many schools are giving their students reading challenges to tackle. Local libraries are great places to find movies, internet access and more, but can also be a place where someone learns to love books.
Laesch-Vanstone, who hated reading as a child, and other local librarians say their favorite part of the job is helping people find a book they will love.
“I think my greatest strength as a librarian is that I know what it’s like to be the child who hates reading and is forced to do so on every trip to school,” she said. “I really appreciate when I can help a child find a book or format that can help them get started reading.”
Librarians all have their own reasons for doing their job and have different relationships to reading. But they all agree: A library card and the right book can have a significant impact on someone’s life.
Finding the courage to take control
Rebecca Brown, a teen librarian for Farmington Community Library’s Farmington department, realizes that many people love to hate “Eat, Pray, Love” by Elizabeth Gilbert. Some criticize the author as selfish.
But the memoir in which Gilbert tells of an international trip she took after a divorce was a game changer for Brown. Her copy is full of highlights and she talks about it with a visible sense of admiration.
Brown had been in an 11-year abusive marriage, she said, and reading “Eat, Pray, Love” unleashed courage that eventually gave her the will to leave the relationship and create a healthier and happier life for herself. So she does not care that some call Gilbert selfish.
“I never really talked about what was going on because I thought it was my fault and I was embarrassed about it,” she said. “I took this book because it had been really popular, and when I read it, it just gave me the idea that my life was my life, and I did not just have to keep up with the things that were happening to me.
“It changed my life. I would even say it saved my life.”
Triggered a love of storytelling
She says she’s not Stephen King, but Katelin Smith has written her large share of creepy stories.
She attributes that hobby to “The Haunted House and Other Creepy Poems and Narratives” by V. Crume. The small, sold-out paperback is a collection of scary stories meant to be enjoyed by children. Smith’s mother used to read it to her.
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“This is where I got my love of creepy stories,” she said. “It’s a nice little thing with spooky stuff that’s always fun for Halloween, but it’s good at any time of the year.”
She has always loved reading and now she also enjoys sharing her own stories.
“I love telling stories, and I write my own as a hobby,” Smith said. “It’s nothing fancy, but I share my stories with my friends and my family, and they always enjoy them. I think it comes from that love of reading.”
Learning to deal with the ups and downs of life
Like many other high school students, Karen Smith received her copy of “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!” by Dr. Seuss as a teenager.
She loved it so much that she actually read it aloud to her peers from the stage at her high school graduation. She has also been known to give it as an exam gift.
“I have loved this book forever,” said Smith, director of child services at the Livonia Civic Center Library. “It’s just one of those really cool books that’s good for a kindergarten graduation or a high school graduation or a college diploma. I love that it teaches you that some days everything will go right and some days everything will go wrong. But at the end of the day, it’s all right. “
“Oh, the places you want to go!” was the last book Seuss published before his death in 1991 and explores the ups and downs of life. Although it is a picture book for children, Smith believes it has something for everyone.
“It’s a really cool lesson,” Smith said.
Contact reporter Shelby Tankersley at [email protected] or 248-305-0448. Follow her on Twitter @shelby_tankk.