Erika Leigh Noble’s appetite for literature grew from reading books to her grandma

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My love story may be different than most others. Since I was a little girl, I always had a love for books; I loved the way they felt, how some of them smelled. Being reared by my grandmother, a 5-foot-tall woman with only a second-grade education, she instilled in me that everything around you is a learning opportunity if you allow it to be, and every book is a vacation if you are willing to travel.

Her name was Zelma Mitchell Brewer (pictured above). She was from Mobile, Alabama. The oldest child of her parents, she had to stop her education in the second grade to assist her mother, Francis Mitchell, with her younger siblings. When my grandmother was of age, she started cleaning houses in Mobile, until she saved enough money to move with her two small children to Texas in the late 1940s. 

Settling her family in Nacogdoches, she would meet the late great L.V. Brewer. Together they shared five children, rearing seven total. My grandmother would use me to read books to her, and I hated it at the time. I wanted to go outside and play with my cousins, or just sit and do nothing like a normal child. I remember many days reading to my grandmother, then looking up words in the dictionaries and encyclopedias to help her understand what the word meant or how to use it in a sentence. 

It got to a point where she would ask, “Where are we going today?” I would grab a book and say, “Looks like we are going to Kansas.” That was The Wizard of Oz. I would read to her and she would just rock in her chair, often with her eyes closed. I would ask her if she was sleeping; she would say, “No, just imagining what Dorothy’s house looked like. I have never been there before.” 

I would smile and keep reading. 

I had no idea she was preparing me for a relationship with books that I would need throughout my life. My grandmother was not a good reader, and the words that she did know I taught her! What a feeling to know you taught your grandmother how to read.

I carry the relationship we shared with me to this day. My family would like to say they owe me for teaching her how to read, but I want to say I owe my grandmother for giving me something I can give back to the world. 

During the pandemic I had the urgency to put legs to my EL Station vision. Last July, I started her first Little Free Library, developing partnerships with the City of Dallas Recreation Department, The Dallas Public Library, Rick Smith with The Real Estate Book, and Todd Boi with The Little Free Library. 

In a short time, we have placed a book in the hands of more than 1,000 people in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. Not your average love story, but it is one that has blazed throughout many homes, being the escape many lives needed during a time of hopelessness.

— as told by Erika Leigh Noble

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