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The Oldest Student: How Mary Walker Learned to Read

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4.63  ·  Rating details ·  1,609 ratings  ·  362 reviews
In 1848, Mary Walker was born into slavery. At age 15, she was freed, and by age 20, she was married and had her first child. By age 68, she had worked numerous jobs, including cooking, cleaning, babysitting, and selling sandwiches to raise money for her church. At 114, she was the last remaining member of her family. And at 116, she learned to read. From Rita Lorraine Hub ...more
Hardcover, 40 pages
Published January 7th 2020 by Schwartz & Wade
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Samantha Mairson Yes, it is based on the true story of Mary Walker.

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Average rating 4.63  · 
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Calista
Oct 19, 2020 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Interesting people
I find this story inspirational. May walker was born a slave in 1848 and freed when she was 15. She worked hard during her life, but she never learned to read. She grew her family up and they all died when they were in their 90s and they read to her. So, at 114, Mary decided to learn to read, she always wanted to in her life. She became the oldest student in the country and she did learn to read. She lived in Chattanooga in a retirement home at the time. By 116 she could read and she lived to be ...more
Dave Schaafsma
Each year my family reads all the Goodreads-award-nominated picture books. The Oldest Student is book #2 (of 20) of 2020.

"To know things, for us to know things, is bad for them. We get to wanting and when we get to wanting it's bad for them. They thinks we want what they got . . . . That's why they don't want us reading." --Nightjohn

This is the inspirational story of Mary Walker, born a slave in 1848, freed at fifteen and, like most slaves, deliberately denied the right to read and write because
...more
Julie
Feb 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: children-s, biography
A truly moving story about Mary Walker finally achieving her lifelong dream to learn to read at age 116! Then, three years later she experienced her first airplane ride and "Mary decided that flying was a lot like reading: they both made a body feel free as a bird."

The illustrations are lovely. I loved the colors and the decoupage style.
...more
Sandy Brehl
It is always inspiring to read authentic stories about overcoming illiteracy, about fulfilling a lifelong will to read. This true story of Mary Walker, born enslaved in 1848, has many gaps in her long life. The Bible she was gifted has served as documentation of her major life landmarks (marriage, birth of children) even though she was unable to read or write throughout her life. She understood the value of written records and duly added her personal mark to each entry in her Bible.
Mary and her
...more
Rod Brown
Annual Goodreads Choice Awards reading project: Read all the Picture Book nominees! (20 of 20). Project complete!

The story is a bit flat on the page, but the heart of it is quite inspiring as a Black woman who was born a slave in 1848 finally learns to read in the 1960s at the unimaginable age of 116.
Vivian Kirkfield
Jan 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Fabulous text combines with wonderful illustrations that will engage, educate, entertain...and most of all, inspire every child who reads this book!
I am almost 73 years old, and I want to be Mary Walker when I grow up. With a sense of purpose and extreme focus, Mary pursues her dream to learn to read and write...and succeeds.
As a former elementary school teacher I urge every school librarian to make sure this book is part of the school library collection...and please, get more than one copy...
...more
Amy Layton
All I can say is wow, and thank you to Hubbard and Mora for enlightening me on this student!  Learning to read is no easy feat, and even less easy when you get older.  So the fact that Mary Walker learned to read at 116, after living through both slavery and the civil rights movement is absolutely, undeniably incredible.  The collage-style illustrations highlight this collaborative learning process, as Walker had the support not only of her friends, family, and classmates, but the entire city it ...more
Cheryl Gladfelter
An amazing biography that just hits you in the feels. Love the photos of Mary in the endpapers. And how the jacket flap hits you with her story! "And at 116, Mary Walker learned to read." Just incredible.

Oge Mora's illustrations are perfection. The image of Mary in her rocker with her three sons and husband in shades of blue by her is just eloquent.
...more
Julie Hedlund
Jan 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Breathtaking book on all levels, and so inspiring! Indeed, nobody is ever too old to learn. What a fabulous message for children.
KC
The fascinating biography of a former slave and one the of the world’s oldest women and how she learned to read at the age of 116.
Racheal
What a fantastic, beautiful book!! Several things:

First, DO NOT read this while you're at work unless you want to get all snotty up inside your mask. Yikes!

Second, I have not a single doubt in my mind that Oge Mora will one day win the Caldecott award. Her artwork is genius. The subtle way she portrays the characters across the gamut of emotions, the soft colors and beautiful use of mixed media, the visual way she portrays Mary's illiteracy/literacy (showing words as squiggles or as a mishmash
...more
Jolene Gutiérrez
May 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This powerful story invites readers to learn more about Mary Walker, a woman who was born into slavery and worked hard her entire life--so hard, in fact, that she never had a chance to learn to read. Finally, when she was 116 years old, Mary had some free time and was ready to learn to read. Mary is an inspiration, and her can-do attitude is so important to share with kids. Photos of Mary grace the end pages and Oge Mora's illustrations are gorgeous. This is an important addition to all classroo ...more
Mariah Roze
Nov 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
"In 1848, Mary Walker was born into slavery. At age 15, she was freed, and by age 20, she was married and had her first child. By age 68, she had worked numerous jobs, including cooking, cleaning, babysitting, and selling sandwiches to raise money for her church. At 114, she was the last remaining member of her family. And at 116, she learned to read. From Rita Lorraine Hubbard and rising star Oge Mora comes the inspirational story of Mary Walker, a woman whose long life spanned from the Civil W ...more
Stefanie Kellum
Jun 05, 2019 rated it liked it
This is the inspiring story of Mary Walker, a woman born into slavery who learned to read at the age of 116! It's a fascinating reminder that it's never too late to learn to read and discover the magic of books! Kids struggling to learn to read are sure to find this encouraging.

*I read a digital ARC of this title from the publisher via Edelweiss.
...more
Caroline
Mar 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: bipoc-books
An incredible book and an even more amazing true story about Mary Walker, a former slave who learned to read in her 100s! She was dubbed the US's oldest student and she read until she passed at 121. If you've never heard of Mary Walker, this is absolutely worth the read and a quick Google search to learn more about a person who persevered despite many setbacks. ...more
Laura Harrison
Jan 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2020, omg-cant-wait
What a great start to the new year! Exquisite biography of Mary Walker who was born into slavery. Interesting, unique and inspiring with magnificent illustrations by Oge Mora. The Oldest Student is a must have for a school, library or personal collection. I love it!
Jacqui
4.5. The photos on the end pages added to the story.
Nic
Jan 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This made me cry. Definitely for sharing.
DaNae
A perfect story to share during Reading Week!
Vicki
An unbelievable story that is NOT to be missed!
Dee Dee G
Jul 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Ms Mary had a hard life but God placed learning to read on her heart for years. Signing up for a literacy class at 114 years proves to never give up on your dreams.
Megan Sanks
Jul 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Oge Mora is such a wonderful illustrator!
Cait Flanders
Jan 03, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: kids-books
"You're never too old to learn." ...more
Jill
May 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
Mary Walker was born a slave in 1848 in Alabama. As the author explains in a note at the end of the book, very little is known about Mary’s life from the time she became free at age fifteen following Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation until she learned to read at age 116. Hubbard allows, “I chose to imagine other details to fill in the blanks.” (The author also related that although Mary had been interviewed after she became famous, she “was too afraid to answer some of the questions. Even thou ...more
Sunday
Aug 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: bio-strong-women, bio
"At the age of 15, she was freed.
At 20, she was married and had her first child.
At 68, she was still working and raising money for her church.
At 114, she was the last remaining member of her family.
And at 116, Mary Walker learned to read." (from front inside flap of book)

WOW. Hubbard and Mora's portrayal of Mary Walker is delightful and Walker, herself, an inspiring, unsung heroine.

With limited knowledge about the specific details of Walker's life, Hubbard "chose to imagine other details to fil
...more
Alicia
Talk about hopeful inspiration and historical perspective. Mary Walker was born into slavery and at around fifteen, she and her family were emancipated. That still meant a life of toil where she married and lost a spouse, had children, and worked in various capacities. She always kept a Bible she was gifted and made marks when things happened in history but they were only marks because Mary never learned to read and write.

After she outlived spouses and her children and well past the age of 100,
...more
Villain E
Aug 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Wow. This one makes me tear up a little.

Mary Walker was born into slavery in 1848. She wasn't taught how to read. She was 15 when the Emancipation Proclamation declared her free. But she had to work to help support her family, and didn't have time or energy to put into learning. Mary married, had a son, was widowed, remarried, had two more sons, and had to continue to work to provide for her family.

Mary lived to be over 100. She outlived her husband and her children. At 116 years old, Mary took
...more
Kris Dersch
This was LOVELY. The art is completely gorgeous and the story is totally captivating. I wanted some source notes...I understand that since she was born enslaved her actual birth date could never be 100% proven, I didn't need that discussion, but a few notes as to where and how we could learn more about her or how the author found her would have been nice. There is a short author's note. Totally gorgeous book, would work with so many ages on so many levels. Gives all the feels. The plane ride tak ...more
Holly Mueller
What an incredible story about an inspiring woman, Mary Walker! She was born a slave in 1848, was married twice and had 3 sons (one of whom was a WW I veteran), learned to read at 116 (talk about a lifelong learner!!), and died at age 121 in 1969. The Author's Note said she lived through 26 presidents and could still see and hear well, walk with only minimal help from a cane, and bake cakes. I would love to read more about her. Loved the end pages of photographs. Thankful for this biography and ...more
Kirsti Call
Nov 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
"You're never too old to learn." Mary Walker

This inspiring book tells the story Mary Walker who learned to read at the age of 116 years old! Rita Lorraine Hubbard does an incredible job of sharing Mary's story with expert word choice. Her words, paired with Oge Mora's stunning illustrations make this book a powerful work of art. This is a beautiful, inspiring, and heart warming story of persistence and hope.
...more
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