A Book is a Many Splendored Thing (by Margie Gelbwasser)

There are so many books I love, each for a different reason. But if it wasn't for one teacher I had, Miss Margaret Schmeh, my love affair with books would have never began.

In my family, my older sister was the reader. She took a book to every party or event my family went to. I, on the other hand, avoided books like the plague. I wanted to do well in school, so I read whatever was assigned. And, when we had to do a book report each month, I read the required genre (always surprising myself when I liked the book). But on my own? Nope. I had to be forced to sit and read.

Then, I entered Miss Schmeh's seventh grade class. The first positive thing that lady had going for her was that her first name was Margaret. Until that point, I was the only Margaret I ever met. I figured this woman deserved a shot.

She had a huge floor-to-ceiling cabinet that was filled with books. In addition to whatever we were reading in class, we had to read at least one book a month from the cabinet. To check if we actually read the books (7th graders can be sneaky), she would give us a 10 question quiz. Easy enough. Except that I hated reading.

The first time I walked up to that cabinet, I cringed. I stared a long time before finally choosing a book. The first book I picked was This Place Has No Atmosphere by Paula Danziger. This book was about a girl named Aurora whose parents have to move to the moon. She must leave her popular life behind and deal with new friends, boys, etc. At that time, sci-fi was my LEAST favorite book to read. The fact that this was considered sci-fi floored me and I devoured it. Many more gems came after. There was The Outsiders after which I just HAD to read That Was Then, This Is Now—both by S.E. Hinton. There was the Anne of Green Gables series, another surprise. I never thought I'd like historical fiction, but I was pulled into Anne's world immediately. The description captivated me, and I adored Anne's spunk and strength. After that, I read another surprise—The Secret Garden. Again, I was immersed in the details of the setting. That cabinet was magic. Whatever the book, I loved it.
The transformation that occurred that year was amazing. Books became friends. Books became escape. I finally understood why my sister toted books everywhere.

When I was in my twenties, I heard Miss Schmeh had passed away from cancer. There were many teens whose lives she'd never touch. I wish I had told her how she had changed mine. Thanks to her and her cabinet of books, I never looked at the world the same way again.


  1. I love this post, Margie. I bet your Miss Schmeh knew what a difference she made for you and other students too. What an amazing legacy.

  2. Thanks, Jody! I hope so. She ran a tight ship but did so many creative things. She was great!


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