word craft


Remembering Betty Miles

Betty Miles, author and educator
Bet­ty Miles,
author and educator

I was deeply sad­dened by the death of Bet­ty Miles, edu­ca­tor, edi­tor, writer (more than thir­ty books), and my close friend for more than fifty years. Born of mis­sion­ary US par­ents in pre-World War II Iraq, she nev­er ceased being a mis­sion­ary on behalf of chil­dren, and read­ing. As edi­tor of The Bank Street Read­ers, she was the first to bring diver­si­ty to texts. Hey! I’m Read­ing was the first book about read­ing, writ­ten for new read­ers and their fam­i­lies. Among her many suc­cess­ful nov­els—The Real Me, Maudie and Me and The Dirty Book, The Trou­ble with Thir­teen, Just the Begin­ning—she wrote about girls and their strug­gles to be them­selves, with humor, clear-eyed real­i­ty, and engag­ing plots. Many are still in print.

I first became acquaint­ed with her in the offices of Pan­theon and Knopf Books, where we were both being pub­lished. Short­ly after­ward, we met again dur­ing an anti-war march in Wash­ing­ton DC. My friend­ship with her (and her hus­band Matt, who was him­self impor­tant in the world of edu­ca­tion reform) con­tin­ued from then on.

As I knew her, she was an ener­getic, warm-heart­ed, and wel­com­ing per­son, who began each day with a close read­ing of the New York Times so she might be informed about every­thing. She was a gar­den­er and a seri­ous ama­teur musi­cian. Laugh­ter and com­pas­sion were equal parts of her per­sona. Her great appetite was for peo­ple, with deep loy­al­ty and engage­ment with many friends. We talked often on the phone—she lived in Ver­mont, I in Colorado—at which times we gos­siped about the world at large, fam­i­ly, and life in general.

She often read my books in ear­ly drafts, pro­vid­ed gen­er­ous cri­tiques along with—teacher that she was—grammatical cor­rec­tions. All use­ful, always welcome.

My old­est friend, I—and the world—shall miss her greatly.

6 thoughts on “Remembering Betty Miles”

  1. I was lucky to meet and work a bit with Bet­ty Miles when I was at McElder­ry Books. I am so very sor­ry for this pre­cious loss. Thank you for your beau­ti­ful words, Avi.

  2. Los­ing a beloved friend leaves a hole in one’s heart. The waves of grief come fur­ther apart over time but the hole remains. I’m so sor­ry that your friend has passed.
    Per­haps you’ll meet again.

  3. Thank you, Avi. She would be very moved by this. I know how much she loved you and trea­sured your friendship.

  4. This is Nor­ma Klein’s daugh­ter Jen. We met years ago! I just woke up this morn­ing from a vivid dream of hug­ging and mourn­ing Bet­ty, who was like a god­moth­er to me grow­ing up. How I loved her, and her books. Thank you for this beau­ti­ful remembrance.


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