The Oldest Student: How Mary Walker Learned to Read

show cover of book The Oldest StudentThe Oldest Student: How Mary Walker Learned to Read

By Rita Lorraine Hubbard; illustrated by Caldecott Honor Winner Oge More

Schwarz and Wade Books; 2020. (Ages 6-10)


We know that Mary Walker lived through twenty-six presidents. That her precious Bible waited 101 years before she was able to read it. That she learned to read at the age of 116. There’s little doubt this intriguing picture book about her life will impress young readers with the possibilities of later life.

illustration by Oge Mora in The Oldest Student

Art by Oge More


In 1848, Mary Walker was born into slavery. At age 15, she was freed, and by age 20, she was married and had her first child. By age 68, she had worked numerous jobs, including cooking, cleaning, babysitting, and selling sandwiches to raise money for her church. At 114, she was the last remaining member of her family. And at 116, she learned to read.

From Rita Lorraine Hubbard and rising star Oge More comes the inspirational story of Mary Walker, a woman whose long life spanned from the Civil War to the Civil Rights Movement, and who—with perseverance and dedication—proved that you’re never too old to learn.

The Oldest Student: How Mary Walker Learned to Read has garnered starred reviews from Booklist, Kirkus, School Library Journal and Publishers Weekly.

illustration in The Oldest Student

Art by Oge More

Read more–

For more on this lovely story certain to provoke conversation with kids about aging please read author Beth Anderson’s blog review here.

Child-friendly book activities like this are included in Beth’s post.

illustration in The Oldest Student

Art by Oge More

Interview: Choose an older person you know such as a grandparent. Write down 5 questions you’d like to ask them about what life was like when they were a child. Report back or write what you learned about their life. How does it compare to your life?

Beth also has a post with some background from the author of The Oldest Student, Rita Lorraine Hubbard, at this link.

Learn more about Beth Anderson:

Read her Late Bloomer guest post at A is for Aging. 

Beth’s second book, LIZZIE DEMANDS A SEAT: ELIZABETH JENNINGS FIGHTS FOR STREETCAR RIGHTS released Jannuary 2020 from Calkins Creek Books. Kirkus Reviews gave it a star!

Art by E.B. Lewis

Thank you Beth!

Please come back to “A is for Aging” for more:

Positive Aging picture books

and posts by Late Blooming writers.

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