When Linda DiGennaro’s mother, Adele Piazza Porcelli, passed away this summer, Linda decided she would honor her mother’s perseverance and legacy by supporting literacy organizations that serve children in need.
Linda, an early childhood educator herself, was always inspired by her mother’s love of books and learning given the fact that her mother had only an 8th grade education.
Born to immigrant parents in Brooklyn, New York in 1921, Adele had two sisters and a brother and was only six months old when their father died from meningitis.
Adele’s saving grace was school, Linda recounts. Despite a truncated academic career, Adele continued learning through reading, right up until the end of her life.
Linda lovingly remembers: “She cooked; she cleaned; and she read. She always had a book in her hand. She read The New York Times cover to cover until about six weeks before she died. She read the classics over and over. And she was always ready to talk about the new novel she was reading. She could tell you how the Dow was doing and let you in on all the latest celebrity gossip.”
“Once you learn to read, you don’t need anything else. It opens the rest of the world to you,” Linda said.
Because Adele was such a great role model for supporting literacy and the importance of reading and education as a key to success, these values were transferred to Linda and her brother.
Linda and her brother both took their education very seriously, pursuing advanced degrees and undertaking professions that were steeped in literacy. Adele’s influence is evident in Linda’s motivation and resourcefulness: Linda found ways to navigate the system of higher education by securing scholarships and grants to continue her learning, an effort that recently even included a creative writing workshop at Columbia.
Linda’s advice to parents who want to instill a love of learning and books in their own children: “From the moment they are put into your arms, speak to them, listen, recite anything you know, whether it’s something your grandma would say or a verse from your favorite song. Every single thing you do with them, think of it as an experience. Talk about the cracks in the sidewalk, anything. There’s always something to learn from whatever you’re doing. Listen, ask questions, get curious.”