The Oldest Student


An enslaved 15-year old is set free by order of the Emancipation Proclamation, and receives her first book — the bible, so she can learn her civil rights. But with sharecropping, Jim Crow laws and other discriminatory practices flourishing in the land, it takes her 101 years to learn to read.


Hello Everybody!
Here it is…my second picture book, called THE OLDEST STUDENT: HOW MANY WALKER LEARNED TO READ.

This book is very special to me for two reasons: first, it takes me way, waaaay back to my elementary school days when my class and I visited The Mary Walker Foundation and heard the story about the ex-slave who learned to read when she was 116. I recently told a writer-friend that I can remember not being fazed when I learned how old she was, because when you’re 9 or 10 years old, EVERYBODY seems old to you. But later in life, as I was researching African Americans of Chattanooga, I ran across her story again, and I knew I had to write it to inspire children to never give up on their dreams.

Which brings me to the second reason this book is special to me. I’m just so happy to be able to bring her story out and give her the accolades she deserves! Yes, the city of Chattanooga celebrated with her back in the 1960s, but when your life inspires an entire nation, there’s nothing at all wrong with getting a double-dose of accolades.

Product details

Age Range: 4 – 8 years
Grade Level: Preschool – 3
Hardcover: 40 pages
Publisher: Schwartz & Wade (January 7, 2020)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1524768286
ISBN-13: 978-1524768287
Shipping Weight: 1 pounds

Book Details

Published Year

Jan 7, 2020

Page Count




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Editorial Review

Starred Kirkus Review –Enjoy this book with every child you know; let Mary Walker become a household name.

Starred PUBLISHER’S WEEKLY Review – Walker’s determination and her long, long life—she died at 121—offer genuine inspiration.

Junior Library Guild - An absorbing narrative and excellent illustrations combine to create a moving story of encouragement for youngsters.

Featured on BLACK ENTERPRISE – Walker’s remarkable story...and inspirational life spanned from the Civil War to the civil rights movement.

Recommended on ROMPER online. There is something for everyone in this curated list, and the stories are just perfect to share with your kids.

Starred BookListOnline Review –There is something for everyone in this curated list, and the stories are just perfect to share with your kids.

Starred Hornbook Review – Words are embedded throughout, enriching each scene, and on the final page we see Mary’s quote: “You’re never too old to learn.”