2010-10-27 / Front Page

Children learn the joy of reading through quilting

By Joan Tupponce

Amanda Moody with some of her mother’s quilts, which will be on display at Chester Library throughout November Lisa Billings/Chesterfield Observer Amanda Moody with some of her mother’s quilts, which will be on display at Chester Library throughout November Lisa Billings/Chesterfield Observer Jean Linden’s passion for reading was as strong as her love of quilting. No one understood her enthusiasm for those two endeavors more than her daughter, Amanda Moody.

“Mom was very talented,” Moody said. “She was always creating things with her hands.”

Linden is November’s featured artist at Chester Library. The library’s monthly art exhibits are sponsored by the Chesterfield Center for the Arts Foundation.

Linden, who passed away last summer at the age of 93, worked most of her life as a school librarian in Queens, N.Y., at Public School 48. She used quilting as an incentive to encourage her elementary students to read.

During her time at the school, she and her students created 22 quilts under the slogan “Read it and Quilt it.” Some of those quilts are included in the approximately 12 that will be on display at the library.

Linden came up with the idea of letting school children help her quilt when she asked them to illustrate the stories she read to them. The pictures they drew touched her so much that she wanted to preserve them in a permanent art form. She had the children trace the pictures onto felt and then used them as patterns for quilt pieces.

“She put them together as quilt squares,” Moody said. “She also taught the fourth and fifth graders about quilt patterns and quilt history as well as basic patterns.”

The quilts Linden and the children made ranged from storybook themes to a United Nations pattern.

“They also made a log cabin quilt, and she got the students to do research on [that type] of quilt,” Moody said.

Other quilts included a “Hand-in-Hand” creation that featured the handprints of seniors from the community with corresponding handprints of students and quilts related to African folk tales such as “Clever Turtle.”

The quilting helped the children in a variety of ways. Moody mentions that the school was located in a very poor section of Queens.

“The children didn’t have enough incentive to pursue academics and reading,” she said. “The quilting was helpful for their self-esteem.”

During her time at PS 48, Linden quilted with close to 3,000 children. She also worked with some parents and teachers. When she moved to Chester in 2005, she read to children at C.C. Wells Elementary where Moody works as a teacher.

Linden was a regular storyteller at the school, often sharing the tale of “Clever Turtle.” During the holidays, she would bring in the quilt squares from the “Twelve Days of Christmas” quilt she never put together because she enjoyed holding the individual squares up while singing the song with the children.

In a statement she made before her death, Linden talked about the reason she enjoyed quilting: “I was brought up to feel that an education was for the purpose of being of service, and that the only truly happy people are those who are giving,” Linden said. “Quilting has been my way of giving. By getting young people involved, I’ve encouraged them to learn about history and other cultures, to experiment with patterns and color and most importantly, to read.”

Linden was an inspiration not only to school children, but also to her daughter.

“When I see the quilts I see what she could get these children to do,” Moody said. “She was able to reach children and get them excited about reading and feeling good about themselves. I’ve modeled my teaching career after that.”

There will be an opening reception for Linden’s quilt exhibit from 3-4:30 p.m. on Nov. 6 at Chester Library, 11800 Centre St. For more information, contact the library at 748-6314.

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