StoryCorps: A Joy Of Reading, Sparked By a Special Librarian Hasina Islam fostered a love of reading and the library in Abigail Jean, who is 12. Abigail was just 3 when they met at a branch of the Brooklyn Public Library.

A Joy Of Reading, Sparked By A Special Librarian Determined To 'Make A Difference'

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Time now for StoryCorps. When Rich Jean wanted to help his daughter Abigail learn to read, he took her to the library near their home in Brooklyn, N.Y. That's where they met children's librarian Hasina Islam. They came to StoryCorps to talk about how their friendship started.

HASINA ISLAM: When I first met you, you were so shy. You weren't reading yet. And that was OK because looking at you now.

RICH JEAN: And what's cool is Hasina has recommended a lot of books, a lot of books that I, at the time, thought may be a little too advanced for you. You know what advanced means?

ABIGAIL JEAN: Basically, the same meaning as I can't read it yet.

JEAN: Yeah. But...

JEAN: But I can read it. Like "Charlie And The Chocolate Factory" you thought was too much for me...

JEAN: Yeah. See, I thought - yeah.

JEAN: ...And I read three chapters of it.

ISLAM: That's awesome.

JEAN: You see what you started? You see that spark that you put in this child?

ISLAM: (Laughter). You know, when I was growing up, I lived about a five-minute walk away from the library. And when I was in third grade, I needed to do a project on Henry Hudson.

JEAN: Who is Henry Hudson?

ISLAM: Do you know the Hudson River? It's named after him.

JEAN: Yes.

ISLAM: Yeah. And I don't know who that was. My parents were very busy with their six girls. So I went to the library by myself. And the librarian made me feel so special. She remembered my name. And my favorite thing was she gave me book recommendations. And when I was graduating college, I thought about how I was going to make a difference in the world. And I remembered my librarian. And I remember that feeling that she gave me every single time I went to the library.

JEAN: But that's what I mean. You made my child feel like you were there specifically for her. Did she always make you feel special?

JEAN: Yes.

JEAN: Did she make you feel like it was your library?

JEAN: Yes.

JEAN: There you go.

JEAN: She deserves to be a master librarian.

ISLAM: Aw. Thank you so much, Abigail and Rich, for sitting down and talking to me and reminding me why I came into this profession.


JEAN: Hi. My name is Abigail Jean. It's been five years since I last recorded with Hasina and my dad. We haven't seen each other since before the pandemic. But we just did another recording remotely.

ISLAM: Do you miss the library?

JEAN: I do miss just having the infinite wall of books.

ISLAM: Yeah. I miss that, too. And I really, really miss interacting with the kids and see how much they've grown and what they're reading. And looking at you now, you're 12?

JEAN: Yes.

ISLAM: Oh, my goodness. I can't even believe it. What do you want to do first when the library opens up?

JEAN: The first thing I would want to do is probably see you. I haven't seen you in so long (laughter). I really, really miss you.

ISLAM: I miss you, too. And I often think about you. I just really, really hope that you continue to come back to the library, because when the library opens up, the library can be a sanctuary for you, a place that has millions of books waiting for you to go on a new adventure.


MARTIN: Hasina Islam, along with Abigail and Rich Jean. Their conversation will be archived at the Library of Congress. The Brooklyn Public Library plans to reopen this summer.

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