MCW teacher receives free books

Martin County West Teacher Amanda Larson holds up copies of ‘Small Great Things’ by author Jodi Picoult. Larson recently received 65 free copies of the book for her classroom.

SHERBURN — You don’t know what you’ll get until you try. Just ask Martin County West Language Arts Teacher Amanda Larson, who received 65 free books for her classroom.

Larson recently enjoyed a book titled ‘Small Great Things’ by author Jodi Picoult. According to Picoult’s website, the novel tells the story of an African American labor and delivery nurse who is charged with a serious crime after saving the life of a child whose parents are white supremacists.

“I read this book on a senior class trip, and every page that I read reinforced what I’ve always kind of thought I knew about diversity,” she said. “I graduated from Martin County West, and I went to Mankato. It wasn’t far, but it was far enough to see some diversity and I never had any real experience with diversity.

“That was something that, when I came back here, I felt super passionate about bringing some culture to our school and helping kids have something to reference as we send them out to college and careers. So this book was reinforcing all of those ideas of how we handle different cultures and races and religion, and I knew I wanted to teach the book.

“Picoult forced me to look at how we see race, when there is little diversity in our area. She made me realize that me, my students, my children; we have no idea what it is to be something other than white.”

Larson stated that though she wanted to teach the book, she didn’t bother to ask the principle because she already knew that her budget was limited. But she did decide to email the author, Jodi Picoult, and see if there was any way she could help.

“In my email I said that my students and I live in a bubble and we have very little diversity, and I feel like this book is going to help me do my job. There’s so many important lessons in this book that they can hopefully put in their minds when they go out into life. Hopefully that will help them draw upon that knowledge and help them navigate through what I consider to be a racially complicated world right now.

“I got a response in two days from her publisher, and she said that she had forwarded my email on to the publishing company. They emailed me back within another day, and they didn’t even ask for more information. They just emailed me back and asked me how many books I needed.

Larson stated that she panicked for a minute, wondering if she could ask for 65 books.

“I felt bad and greedy, so I just said that I would take whatever I could get but 65 is the most that I would need. She emailed back and asked for my address. So within a week of emailing the author, I had 65 free books in my room.

“I’m overwhelmed, because that kind of kindness is just incredible. It’s the kind of kindness that I’m always trying to teach my students, that if there’s something you can do for somebody you should do it. I feel like this is going to expand and that there’s going be some really great things that can come from these free books, and I’m hoping that I can really teach our kids some different perspectives.”

Larson stated that she is planning to start teaching the book at the start of the 2018-2019 school year, noting that she will be putting together a curriculum and materials over the summer.

“I’ll teach it right along with ‘To Kill a Mockingbird.’ I have a lot of lofty plans, but I feel lie it will grow every single year.

“I just can’t say enough how grateful I am,” she continued. “If you ask any of my students what I’m constantly preaching about, it would be kindness. I’m just hoping I can just do justice to the great kindness that has been shown to me through these free books.”