Gratitude and My Grandma -- by Jennifer Mitchell
The topic this month had my mind going in a million different places, I am grateful for so many authors. Books have transported me to different times and places over the years and each holds a special spot in my heart. There is something about a true story, especially an autobiography, that always draws me in though. After reflecting on it I kept coming back to one book/author that I read to my class every year, Peg Kehret’s book Small Steps:The Year I got Polio. This book was an accidental find after reading one of Peg Kehert’s fictional books to my class. As a class we searched for other books written by her, and I stumbled across Small Steps. I was instantly drawn to this story because my grandma was stricken with Polio as a young child. For the rest of her life she wore a leg brace, but you would have never known she had a disability, because much like Peg Kehert, she didn’t let her disability define her.
To me this book is not only a wonderful historical lesson, because children do not have a knowledge base of what Polio is, it is also a wonderful discussion tool for perseverance. Reading this book gave me a better insight into what my grandma’s struggles must have been like growing up, she was never one to share her difficulties. I am grateful that Peg Kehret shared how she overcame her own struggles, it shows students that you can accomplish anything even if you have to endure bumps along the way.
Finding this story eventually led me to sharing it with my grandma, and though she didn’t go in-depth about that part of her life (or struggles), she acknowledged the similarities between what she and Peg both went through. I am grateful that this book could not only help me understand how Polio affected people’s lives, but also gave me a glimpse into what my grandma lived though as a child. It was eye opening to realize how complex Polio was, it didn’t just go away after you left the hospital, it had lasting effects for the rest of their lives.
Each year when I pull this book off the shelf to read to a new group of students I always feel a little bit closer to my grandma knowing that I am sharing a piece of history, and thankful others are no longer afflicted with this disease. It also gives me plenty of time to share with my students what an amazing lady I had the privilege to call my grandma. Books have the power to help us understand the generations that lived before us, and inspire us to reach for our dreams.