Once upon a time, there was a little boy with curly red hair, big brown eyes, a smattering of freckles on his nose and a smile as big as the whole outdoors. His name was Corey and this is his story.
Corey had seen a lot in the five years he had been on this planet – more than most little boys ought to see in a lifetime.
When he was very little, he had lived with his mummy and daddy, just like lots of little boys do, until his daddy got tired of Corey having to see his mummy shoot poison into her veins. So he took Corey to live in another town far, far away. Corey’s mummy was so stoned that she didn’t even notice they were gone and, to this day, Corey has not seen or spoken to his mummy again.
The months went by and life was good for Corey, or as good as it could be for a little boy with a daddy who worked all day while he played with the other kids in the childcare center. But every night, his daddy was there to tuck him into bed, read him a story and give him a kiss. Corey loved stories. He loved to let his mind wander to the lands of make-believe where children had mummies who loved them and looked after them. Sometimes he even dreamed that he was in a family like that, but, each morning he woke up, and he knew it was just that – a dream.
Then one day, his daddy found him a new mummy – one that came with a brother and sister too! Corey was happy – for a while. But it was so hard to understand why his new mummy didn’t love him as much as she loved his brother and sister and no matter how hard he tried, she always yelled at him and sometimes even hit him, even when he had been extra-especially good.
But the hardest thing to understand was why his daddy didn’t read him stories anymore or tuck him into bed, and why, sometimes, he hit him too.
Corey needed to escape but being such a little boy he didn’t really have anywhere to escape to – except inside his books. Even though he was only four, he would find a quiet spot and curl up with his favourite stories and tell them to himself over and over again. It wasn’t long before Corey realised he could read! He didn’t have many books to read though, but at least, when he read those he had, he got the same pleasure over and over again. Lots of times he read them to his teddy called Scruffy, because Scruffy seemed to enjoy the stories as much as he did.
Where Corey lives, children can go to school when they are five and that day was coming for Corey and he couldn’t wait. Because he knew that at the school was a library that was just full of books that could take him on magical adventures and to faraway places, and that while he was there he could blot out the yelling and the smacking, and forget the bruises that made his back and his bottom so sore.
The day came, and off he went to school with his shiny new school bag, his shiny new lunchbox and his shiny new library bag. Oh, how he hoped he would be able to go to the library on that very first day. Even if he couldn’t borrow, what fun it would be just to look and choose what he would borrow just as soon as he could.
To his delight, his teacher did take him to the library on that first day, and he even got to choose a book. The library lady had worked very hard to get all the new students’ names on the computer just so they could.
The library was a wonderful place and there were books and things everywhere – just waiting for him to choose them. The library lady showed them where all their favourite characters like Winnie the Pooh and the Rainbow Fish were, and it was so hard to decide. But finally he selected a little book that looked like fun and very proudly took it to the counter so it could be scanned before he popped it into that shiny new library bag. The library lady had introduced them to a teddy called Dr Booklove and told them how Dr Booklove liked to read rather than repair books so he liked the books to go home in library bags so they didn’t get damaged.
Dr Booklove had also said that it was important to keep your library books in a special place at home away from your little brothers and sisters and pets, and Corey knew exactly where he was going to keep his book. That night, after he had read it to himself, because no one read to him anymore, he put it in his special place.
And that was the last he ever saw of his very first library book.
For, just as he was going to sleep, a lady came to the house, and before Corey knew what was happening, all his clothes and Scruffy were shoved into his shiny new schoolbag and he was being put in a car with the lady. He didn’t even have time to tell them about the library book in its special place.
That night, he and Scruffy slept in a new bed, one “where you will be safe” the lady had said.
Corey didn’t go back to school for a few days but when he did he was too scared to tell the nice library lady what had happened. He didn’t really understand it himself. So when it was time for him to go to the library again, and she asked him where his book was, he just said it was at his dad’s house.
Because lots of children at that school spend one week with their mummies and the next with their daddies, the library lady assumed he would bring it the next week. “When you bring it back, you can borrow another one,” she said. Corey’s heart broke. How could he tell her that the book was at his dad’s house but he wasn’t?
Four weeks went by, and each time, the library lady said the same thing, “When you bring it back, you can borrow another one.” She even gave him little reminder notes and said she would ring his dad to get him to put it into his bag for him. She was used to lots of little children not being able to remember.
Then, one day, the library lady was talking to Corey’s teacher and she mentioned that he had not returned his book and she was going to ring his dad. That’s when she discovered what had happened to Corey on that night all those weeks ago. No wonder that big smile he had had on that first day had disappeared and he looked so forlorn each time he couldn’t borrow.
As soon as lunchtime was over, the library lady went to Corey’s class and asked his teacher if he could come to the library for a few minutes. When they got there, the library lady said that in special circumstances, she could break the rules and even though Corey hadn’t returned his library book, he could choose another one anyway! The smile was back! In a flash, he was off to the shelves to choose the story that he had wanted for all those weeks.
Meanwhile, the library lady had found a very smart library bag with a special message on it, and she gave it to Corey. The smile nearly split his face as he went back to class.
The next morning, Corey was back before school to see if it was all right to get another book because he had read that one to Scruffy already. “No worries,” said the library lady, “you can come every day if you want. We are always open before school and at lunchtime and even after school. You don’t have to wait till your library day.”
As Corey went out the door, he slapped his thighs and punched the air, and shouted “YES!”
Every day since, Corey comes to the library before school and changes his book, always placing it in the library bag with the special message. His smile is still as wide as the outdoors, and whenever he sees the library lady in the playground, he comes up and slips his hand in hers and says, “Hello, library lady.”
The library lady smiles too and inside blesses the day she broke the rules. In fact, she even changed them so that every little person who wanted a library book could have one, because she knew that there were more Coreys in her school and their smiles were more important than a book.
And the special message on Corey’s library bag? It says “To teach is to touch a life forever.”