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The Boy and the Book

Published September 15, 2000
Countries: USA
Age Levels: 9 and up

Almost 200 years ago a young boy was being raised by his father and his step mother in a small log cabin in the back woods.  That boy did not have the advantages of being raised in the city.  His family didn't have much money.  His clothing was not the best.  This young man wore gray homespun clothing that had been made by his step mother.  He wore deerskin leggings instead of stockings, and he wore moccasins on his feet.  When those wore out, he often went barefoot.  Everything about this boy reminded others that the young man was poor.  Yet this young man felt rich.

A neighbor had loaned the boy a book.  A book today might not make you feel rich.  But, back then... a book was worth a lot.  The boy was fond of reading and read every chance he got.  His father did not read and owned no books.  The boy had read the few books that his mother owned.  He read them over and over until he knew them by heart.  The boy lived too far from the school to borrow books.  So, when a neighbor loaned him a book he had not read, the boy felt like a rich man.

The boy did much of his reading by firelight at night after his chores were done.  He read long into the dark night after night.  He read and reread that borrowed book.  One night he put the book in the crack in the wall between two logs to keep it safe when he went to sleep. But that night there was a bad snowstorm.  The wind blew snow in between the cracks of the logs and ruined the book.

Some people might not care about ruinging someone else's property.  After all, it was an accident.  Many people might have made excuses for the condition of the book when it was returned.  But this young man was not one of those people.

The young man took the book back to the owner and explained what happened.  Then he worked three full days to pay his neighbor back, for books were rare and expensive back then.  After the three days the neighbor gave the boy the book to keep.  It was his now.  He had paid for it with his labor.  The boy had proved to be dependable and responsible.  The years went on, and the boy gews up to be a good, honest man who was well respected by others.

The book that had been ruined was about a President, George Washington.  The boy who was so honest and who worked so hard to pay for the ruined book grew up to be President as well, the 16th President of the United States.  That boy's name was Abraham Lincoln.

Abraham Lincoln had read the book over and over.  In later life he said that the book had helped him become President of the United States.