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The Oldest Student: How Mary Walker Learned to Read


Author: Rita Lorraine Hubbard

Illustrator: Oge Mora

Genre: Picture Book Biography

Target Ages: 4-8

Prime Audiences: Struggling Readers; Advocates for Literacy; Readers Interested in African-American Biographies

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade

Publication Year: 2020


Does the possibility of education have a time limit?  Is there a point at which it's pointless to attempt to learn something new?  Mary Walker, a former slave who finally learned to read at the age of 116, would tell you, "You're never too old to learn."


In The Oldest Student: How Mary Walker Learned to Read, Rita Lorraine Hubbard and Oge Mora create a wonderful tribute to Mary Walker and her courageous and inspiring effort to learn to read despite her well-advanced age.  Hubbard does state in her author's note that "Very little is known about Mary's life from her emancipation at age fifteen until she learned to read at 116," and that she (Hubbard) "chose to imagine other details to fill in the blanks," and those details serve as the bridge between Walker's inauspicious beginnings to her triumph in mastering words a century after her physical emancipation.  Mora's art, which includes patterned paper and book clippings, skillfully amplifies the tone of Hubbard's narrative of Walker's journey.  The endpapers contain black and white photos of Walker, including her teacher, Helen Kelley, presenting Walker with her first graduation certificate.


If you want to be encouraged, read The Oldest Student: How Mary Walker Learned to Read!



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