Remembering Anne Dellinger

By Ginger Young, Book Harvest Executive Director

April 29, 2021

Last week, we lost a quiet giant in the worlds of literacy and social justice. And I lost a treasured friend and guide.

I am not entirely sure about this, but – except for my husband Jonathan – I believe that Anne Dellinger was the first person I shared my idea with about starting a nonprofit to put books within reach of every child. I voiced the idea to her tentatively, sheepishly; even saying it out loud filled me with self-doubt.

Anne got it instantly. And in her trademark understated way, she affirmed my idea as worthy and instilled in me the power to proceed. This was vital nourishment for me at a key moment – a moment when I could have just as easily shelved my idea and returned to an acceptance of the world as it was rather than the world I dreamt just might be possible.

Buoyed by Anne’s quiet leadership, unparalleled strategic mind, and cherished friendship, I took those first baby steps on the road to Book Harvest – a road that I delightfully walk along today in the company of a giant village of fellow believers. In my mind, I see a direct line between Anne’s catalytic affirmation of this nascent nugget of an idea and the reality today of 1.5 million books harvested by children and families. Thank you, Anne.

Along the way, there were such opportunities for collaboration and fellowship! I went with Anne to meet with middle schoolers to ask them about their favorite books. I brought Anne and her husband Walter on a field trip to see our work in action, visiting our Book Harvest bookshelf in the waiting room of our inaugural partner Inter-Faith Council for Social Service. I had the privilege of giving Anne and Walter a personal tour of our snazzy new digs when we moved into our current home at 2501 University Drive.  And we had long and delightful conversations over many dinners about my vision for Book Harvest, interspersed always with discussions of children’s literature and our own favorite children’s books.

How fortunate I feel! And I miss her fiercely.

The breadth and depth of all that Anne accomplished, quietly, in her lifetime is both dizzying and dazzling. I cannot possibly do her activism justice here, nor am I qualified to. Suffice it to say that she lived tirelessly by her principles, calling out systems and demanding accountability, working toward racial justice and gender equity, striving for a better world for pregnant and parenting teens, children in foster care, and so many others amongst us.

One of the very last things Anne wrote was this:

Reading may be close to my first and last “friend”. It has brought me so much love and knowledge, opening perhaps by now thousands of new worlds.

It seems fitting that, just as reading opened up thousands of new worlds for her, Anne has been a part of Book Harvest’s work to open up thousands of new worlds for children. This thought brings me much comfort as I struggle to reconcile myself to a world in which she no longer walks alongside the legions of us whom she lifted up and inspired.

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