Mrs. Steers made reading an addiction.
My mom’s greatest gift to me was my love of books and reading at a young age, but my second-grade teacher, Mrs. Betty Steers, taught me to how to get into a story, how to view characters as real people, people with feelings. Mrs. Steers did something more teachers, and parents, should do to their kids–she read aloud to them.
I remember coming in from recess or PE and she would be sitting on the edge of her desk with a Beverly Cleary book and would begin reading to us. She didn’t just read the stories of Ralph the Mouse, or Beezus and Ramona, or Henry Huggins, she made them come alive. In bringing us these tales, she became the characters. Her voice would change to a know-it-all tone when speaking as Beezus. It would become unsure and insecure when she took on the traits of Henry Huggins. She made us crave reading time.
Granted, there were some in the class who could care less. But many of those who doth protest too much secretly loved it as much as the rest of us. Even those who really didn’t like the reading were smart enough to keep quiet because hey, at least it’s not social studies.
She would read The Mouse and the Motorcycle and the following Tuesday (library day in the second grade), I would check it out so I could read it myself. I found the stories were just as good the second time around because one, they were great stories, and two, it opened new doors to new books that I otherwise would not have read on my own.
The most important thing Mrs. Steers gave me was that innocent joy that comes from reading a ridiculously-good book. I can still hear her voice in my head when I think of Mrs. Pigglewiggle or Pippi Longstocking. That delving into a character gave me the desire to pass that along to my own children and I have. Every Christmas, my 19-year-old son and 17-year-old daughter still delight in hearing the different voices that emanate from me when I read Murray Saves Christmas.
I know I’m not the only one of her students who appreciate a good story because of Mrs. Steers and I’d like to think of her still sitting on her desk, reading Harry Potter to a class of students hanging on every word. Even better is knowing that there’s at least one of those students complaining incessantly about story time who will rush home after the 3 o’clock bell to read the book for themselves.