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Genevieve Piturro Headshot

For Joni's Whole Life

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We often hear about children in our Pajama Program reading groups who are transferred -- children we'll probably never see again. I can't help but wonder how they are doing, especially in those first few days and weeks when their environments are so new and daunting. We usually aren't given any forwarding information and we're left to hope they are adjusting and finding at least one person who will truly care for them in their new place. Moving would be overwhelming for any of us so I can't imagine how traumatic it is for these children.

I will always remember Joni, a 10-year-old girl who regularly visited our Pajama Program Reading Center in Yonkers. Joni was painfully shy in a group, even with the other children she lived with in her cottage. She had glasses and braces and I often wondered if that's why she felt awkward. I noticed a speech impediment too and that probably made her feel even more isolated. The other kids giggled together and formed cliques but Joni usually sat alone with a short stack of books we brought to her. Joni has been transferred out of the State... but not out of my heart or mind.

I remember one of her last visits with us. She tentatively asked if she could request a book purchase. This was the first time she was bold enough to give us a title of a book she wanted. Another girl in her cottage had a chapter book and she wanted one too -- it was a sign she was a "big girl." Delighted, I wrote down her request and bought the book. I was thrilled to hand it to her the following week and was bowled over by her reaction. Overflowing with enthusiasm and excitement I had never felt from her before, she asked wide-eyed, "This is MY book, right? I can KEEP the book, right?! For forever AND EVER?!!! Like FOR MY WHOLE LIFE??!!!!

I hope she keeps the book for her whole life. I will remember her elation for my while life.