The Library: Gateway to America

By Eileen S. 

Growing up in Poland, my mother loved books and was a voracious reader. Unlike other girls, she didn’t like playing with dolls and other toys. If you gave her a book, she was happy as a clam.

When she came to the U.S. after marrying my father, she didn’t speak a word of English. The Westchester Library System had several books in Polish at its branch in Yonkers, New York, but they weren’t enough to satisfy her. Seeing all the books the library contained made her determined to learn English quickly so she could read anything and everything she wanted from those shelves. She wanted to have full access to the library and all America had to offer.

It took her just 3 months to learn English and to be able to read any book in the library. Through reading novels and other literary genres, she was able to learn about American culture and life. She once told me that she read Mark Twain’s “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” in Polish but never enjoyed it until she read it in the original English with all of Twain’s witticisms and dialect intact.

My mother was and continues to be a bibliophile, going to the local library regularly and reading at least a couple of books a week. She instilled her love of books in me, taking me to the library when I was a small kid and reading books to me both in English and Polish. Without her, I don’t think I would have become the reader or the librarian that I am today.

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