Hambright teacher honors grandmother through book donations

When Lorien Gilbert’s beloved grandmother died September 6, she wanted to honor the woman who had helped raise her and instill in her a lifelong love of reading.

Mary McReynolds, a children’s librarian in Lithonia, Ga., “wanted all children to see themselves in books, regardless of their race, gender, orientation, religion or ability,” said Gilbert, a third-grade teacher at Hambright Elementary School.

On the morning after her grandmother died, Gilbert went to the Hambright library “to be close to some of her favorite books,” including The Napping House, Jesse Bear, What Will You Wear? and Anne of Green Gables.

Librarian Tara Etzweiler suggested Gilbert purchase a book in memory of her grandmother, and Gilbert seized the opportunity.

“Tara had a list of books on her wish list, and the more I purchased, the more I found that I knew children would want to read,” she recalled.

Gilbert purchased graphic novels, picture books, nonfiction, poetry and fantasy titles.  “It was easy to find incredible stories featuring diverse characters,” she said.

So far, she has donated nearly 50 titles to the school’s collection.

All the books will include a bookplate describing “Miss Mary” McReynolds that includes this phrase: “Remember that you are important, and you have a voice, and we are glad you are here.”

Gilbert’s memories of her grandmother revolve around books, which were everywhere in her home.

“If you sat on the sofa, you were sure to be poked by the corner of a picture book.  She kept a paperback mystery above the stove so she could read while she cooked.  There were books in every closet, every cabinet, under every bed,” Gilbert said. “She always wanted to know what we were reading, even when we grandkids were all grown up.”

To Gilbert, the book donations are “a small way to honor my grandmother, and to remember her inclusive love.”

“I’ve heard it said that when a person dies, so does a library. It’s beautiful that her library is going to live on,” she said.

The books will benefit Hambright students for years to come, said Melissa Mealy, the school’s assistant principal.

“There are some great titles that I know kids are already excited to get their hands on,” she said. “Creating a culture of readers starts with a passion for literature like that of Ms. Gilbert and her grandmother.”

“This is such a wonderful way for Ms. Gilbert to honor her grandmother.”

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