NLA Remembrance: Lives to celebrate
tsticht at aznet.net
Mon Nov 29 20:53:54 EST 1999
David: The following is for you and the NLA list members.
Two Lives To Celebrate
I learned this day that the world of reading has lost two shining lights
in just the last two months. It was my great fortune to have had my own
life illuminated by them both - but for drastically different reasons.
One of these lights, Jeanne Chall of Harvard University, was one of my
dearest friends and greatest professional colleagues. Today I learned
that Jeanne had died this last weekend of November. Jeanne was
instrumental in getting me a visiting professorship at the Harvard
Graduate School of Education in 1975. During my six months there my
wife, Jan, and I had our third child, our daughter Stefanie. Jeanne was
ecstatic about our new baby and was constantly asking about her and Jan
and she was quick to them give lots of hugs at parties. As well as a
close personal relationship, Jeanne and I had a very sympatico
professional relationship. We used to love to have lunch at Harvard
Square at an old restaurant, now closed, that had sawdust on the floor
and made terrific liver and onions, one of Jeanne's favorites. We
discussed lots of issues in reading that later turned up in her second
greatest work, Stages of Reading Development. After I left HGSE, Jeanne
started working with adults in the Reading Laboratory and today several
graduate students have built on her seminal work and are making
contributions to adult literacy research, practice, and policy. Over the
years we have stayed in touch. Whenever I was in Cambridge we would have
lunch at a great German restaurant on the square, also now closed. I
will deeply miss Jeanne's brilliance, great sense of professionalism,
scholarly work, and her love of children and reading.
The second great light in reading that has been extinguished recently is
that of Leo Lionni. Leo died in October of this year. While I knew him
only in passing, I met him at a conference on literacy in 1980, his work
greatly impressed me as it has impressed thousands of teachers and
hundreds of thousands of children around the world over the years. Leo
Lionni was a successful illustrator and artist at Fortune magazine when,
at age fifty years he started writing and illustrating children's books.
And they are great books indeed. His first book, Little Blue and Little
Yellow is one of the simplest, most elegantly presented stories to
teach tolerance of visible, color differences that I have ever read.
At the conference where I met him he gave me a pre-publication copy of
his newest book, Let's Make Rabbits and he signed it for my youngest
daughter, Lindsay. Over the years I saw Leo Lionni's works of reading
books for children grow and four of them have been chosen as Caldecott
I am profoundly honored to have known these two champions of reading.
And while I am deeply saddened by their departures, I am thankful for
the works they have created. While pursued in different directions,
their works come around to focus on one simple sight, children and
parents reading an enthralling book together. What great lives. What a
great future they foretell!
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