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Free-range Reading

Free-range Reading

May 2, 2021

Dear WinkWorld Readers,

Sometimes you hear adults saying, “kids today don’t read.”  Here is a story, which paints a different picture.

Recently, we have lost too many dear friends; their remaining family members are grieving.  I decided to buy books as a memorial.  First, we made  In Memory of  labels for Uncle Ray Johson of Moville IA, Mokey Yaap of College Station, TX, Jan Van Loben sels of Sacramento, CA, Pete Edgell of Cascabel, AZ, Roland Dendy of Benson, AZ, and dear Cuzzin’ Jessie Russell of Sturgis, SD.

Here are my helpers and I preparing the labels.









For several months, I bought books to give the students at a tiny, K-8 two-room school on the isolated prairies of South Dakota.  When the kids saw the boxes of books, they dove in as they squealed with delight.  They shared and talked about the books, and eventually every single student sat alone quietly reading. When I left through a door in the back of the room, they were still reading.  The teacher, nor I, gave any instructions.

In what follows, are some photos of the students receiving the books.

One  can never have enough Patricia Polacco books. In addition, the Junie B. Jones books were a big hit.








One little girl took all of the Junie B. books out and began putting them back into numerical order. I apologized and explained that we took them out to put the memorial sticker in each book, and we didn’t get them put back in the correct order.  Very seriously, and without making a sound, she mouthed to me with exaggerated lip movements “That’s alright. I will fix it.”  She also was the one who hugged the books to her chest, as she whispered, “I love Junie B.”

Jacqueline Woodson brought joy to two of the older girls.


Our resident 4th grade historian was over the moon with his books.  He said, “I love South Dakota history.”

Of course, we needed some good DiCamillo.

Found this little reader on the floor.

These two are eclectic readers.

Amid gasps, ooohhhs, and aaahhhs, we did hear some memorable comments during this time.

“We’re going crazy. I love this stuff.”

“Now, we are getting into awesome history.”

“What is the next holiday?”

“Mrs. U., you need to read this one (Be you by P. Reynolds) out loud.”


Later that night when I was home, the teacher texted me to say that the students read for another 20 minutes, after I left.  She finally asked them to stop, as it was time to do math.  Of course, by this time, there were books scattered everywhere.  Before starting math, the kids decided to pick up the books and categorize them according to the memorial label in the front of each book.  So, all of Uncle Ray’s, all of Mokey’s, all of Jan’s, all of Pete’s, all of Roland’s, and all of dear Cuzzin’ Jessie’s were stacked in groups.  Let the math lesson begin.

One of the book labels posted below.



  • Sharon Whitehead van Loben Sels

    This makes my heart so happy! I know Jan would be thrilled to know his memory was honored this way. I am sure he is celebrating as well. Wonderful kids -wonderful teacher and Wonderful Winks❤️❤️❤️

    • Joan Wink

      Dear Sharon, oh, the fun we all had together with Jan. We were lucky to have the two of you as friends. So sorry for your loss. Love.

  • LeAnn G Putney

    This story is wonderful. It has power (of reading); it has romance (love of dear ones gone too soon); it has gripping suspense (which books will they want); it has agency (kids choose what and where to read); it has responsive citizenry (putting the books in proper order); it has Collective Classroom Efficacy, Hope Pedagogy, and Vygotsky’s ZPD!

    • Joan Wink

      A humbling review, for sure, dear Le. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. Loved how you touched so many bases in one tiny paragraph–even romance. Yes, love.

  • Sharon Biegen

    I love this…and your spirit…and all the wonderful things you do!

  • Janet Towell

    Dear Joan,

    This was such a special way to celebrate the lives of the dear ones you have lost this past year and to celebrate the joy of reading 💕💕💕.

    Love, love love this post.
    God bless you!

    Janet XXOO

  • Ione Stiles

    Amazing posts Joan!
    Thanks for sharing! 📚📚📚💘

  • What a wonderful way to keep young people engaged in reading and increase their awareness of the world around them. Realizing that we each play a part and have a history worth sharing.

  • Darcy Bodiford

    I loved reading this, Joan. It is so great when kids love reading. Our granddaughter, Tessa is in the 2nd grade and I think she’s read over 75 books so far this year. She just got her own library card so now it will be an endless supply of books! She has already started the Harry Potter series, which really surprises me. I see many books in your pictures I know she will love. Thanks for the post.

    • Joan Wink

      Hi Darcy, love staying in touch with you through our love of reading and our grands.

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