NACOGDOCHES, Texas - Mary Frances Mays Kane, better known as "The Story Lady," has donated her collection of more than 10,000 books and story props for children to her alma mater, Stephen F. Austin State University.
The collection includes Golden Books, first editions, textbooks, fiction, non-fiction and more. Most of the materials will be available for teacher candidates and Early Childhood Lab and Charter School teachers to check out for instruction.
"The collection significantly enlarges the children's literature collection at the Janice A. Pattillo Early Childhood Research Center," said Dr. Judy Abbott, dean of SFA's James I. Perkins College of Education. "This substantial increase in the number of books enhances the range and scope of topics, themes, authors and illustrators that will be available to our elementary and early childhood candidates."
Kane, a 1939 SFA elementary education graduate, taught school throughout Texas, but began her career at the SFA Nursery School and then moved to teach at a one-room schoolhouse in Troup. In the 1940s, she taught in Port Arthur and began a nursery school for the Presbyterian Church. During the next 20 years, Kane taught first grade at various schools and continued implementing nursery school programs in churches her family attended.
In 1978, Kane and her husband Vernon moved with their two children to League City, where she began teaching children's literature, fine arts and supervising students in the laboratory school at the College of the Mainland's child development associate program.
"She knew every librarian for miles around," said Kane's daughter, Dr. Diane Kane. "Many of her students began offering story time as a regular part of library programming because of mother. This practice continues today."
Kane became known as "The Story Lady" for the time she spent reading to toddlers and babies and helping parents select books. Diane, who is the STEM lab director at The Galloway School in Friendswood, said her mother would read to children in nursery and private schools, neighborhood children and even children in waiting rooms.
"She was never without a book in her purse or pocket, and she knew the style of authors and illustrators like the back of her hand," Diane said. "She finally hung up her reading apron when she was 83 years old."
A dedication ceremony and reception to recognize Kane and formally introduce the collection will be held at 2 p.m. Friday, Oct. 14, in SFA's Janice A. Pattillo Early Childhood Research Center, Second Floor Resource Room, where the books will be housed. This event is open to the public.
"The fact that the books will be used by the SFA Charter School students makes my heart sing," Diane said. "The SFA Charter School is about the same size as the Clear Creek Children's Institute, the school our family owned and operated for 12 years, and the philosophy is the same. This is my assurance that the books and props have come home."