The story behind Chilliwack Library’s new stories

Celia D. Rogers book collection an ode to multi-generational love of reading

Once upon a time, there was a mother who absolutely loved to read.

As a child, she had delighted in the popular stories of the day, especially those about Peter Pan and Wendy.

When that little girl had to grow up, becoming Mrs. Celia D. Rogers as well as holding the prestigious role of surgical supervisor in the neurosurgical ward at Leeds General Infirmary, her deep love of stories never faltered a bit.

Eventually, she and her husband, Dr. H. Derrick Rogers, welcomed five children to their family. They moved to Canada and settled in Chilliwack, where Dr. Rogers held his practice and Mrs. Rogers worked as his medical office assistant.

The children thrived under the gentle guidance of their parents, with their mother devoting her family time to sharing her love for literature. The Rogers even carved out time to pursue their dedication to music, she as a flautist and he as a pianist. They valued storybooks and celebrated authors like E.B. White and Enid Blyton. Even when Mrs. Rogers left the house on errands, she carried along miniature books — carefully-chosen selections tucked into her purse just in case the opportunity to read presented itself.

Soon her children were voracious readers as well. Stories about Paddington Bear, Madeline, Asterix and Tin Tin brought the children sheer joy, and each celebration brought the promise of a brand new adventure within a crisp new cover. Mrs. Rogers’ best friend worked for a publishing house in England, and often sent the newest titles to the children.

Their children are now all grown. Daughter Victoria Rogers said those gifts from overseas were invaluable to her while growing up here in Chilliwack.

“Every Christmas we would get a big pile of books in our stocking,” she said, from Gerald Durrell to Richard Scarry offerings. “It’s really something I appreciated. Those formative years when I was a child, my parents gave us a lot of opportunities to read children’s books. It wasn’t like my parents were really wealthy but they had a wealth of literature.”

Victoria, now a mother herself, still holds on to her original, now-tattered, copy of the Oxford Book of Childhood Verse. There was no doubt when she grew up and started a family of her own, books would again play an important role in the rearing of children. Just as was tradition in her childhood, Victoria gave books to her own children as a way to celebrate birthdays, Christmas, milestones and personal and educational achievements. And with a top-notch children’s bookstore just down the road from their home in Lions Bay, their collection grew over the years.

It began in the mid-’90s, first with baby board books, then with easy readers, and eventually moving into chapter books more suited to teenagers.

“My mom continued to inspire me along at that time,” Victoria said. “Everywhere she went she had the little bag of miniature books, and we just started teaching our children, at that formative age, to have a book in their hands all the time.”

There were books about Arthur, the Berenstain Bears, Franklin, the Magic School Bus and of course, Clifford the Big Red Dog. Then there were heroes like Judy B. Jones, Cam Jansen, Flat Stanley, Ralph the Motorcycle Mouse, Geronimo Stilton, and Mr. Popper’s Penguins. The Hardy Boys played a big role, but so did the characters from their mom’s and grandmother’s days of curling up with book, like Charlotte’s Web.

“Some of our favourite books today are the ones from her day,” Victoria said.

And when reading wasn’t an option, there were always audiotapes.

But there comes a time when a book collection needs to be passed on. As her children have now left home for university and beyond, Victoria wanted to share the lovely gift of reading bestowed upon her by her mother. The best way she knew possible was to dedicate Celia D. Rogers’ grandchildren’s books to the children of Chilliwack. They were passed over in a private ceremony at Chilliwack Library on Saturday evening, marking the first time a collection has been created from a large book donation.

After sifting and sorting and piling all of their books, setting aside the special ones to keep, and the ones too well-loved to donate to the library, there were about 700 titles to be handed over. Librarian Smitty Miller made the trek to Lions Bay to check it out for herself, last year, knowing this was indeed an unique opportunity. The collection begins with board books and travels right through to young adulthood. Each book bears a shiny label on the inside cover, marking it as a member of the Celia D. Rogers collection. The books are prominently displayed on special shelving in the centre of the children’s area, and while they can be borrowed out, they will not be dispersed through the rest of the Fraser Valley Regional Library.

Saturday’s party was hosted by the Rogers family, and celebrated the end of the months-long project. In attendance were both Celia and Derrick Rogers, the latter who played piano for about 40 guests.

As may be expected, the Rogers are lifetime members of the public library. When they downsized their own home last year, they made the determined decision to settle in a place within walking distance of the downtown branch.

“One of their excursions every day is going for a walk and going to the library,” their daughter said. “They were lifetime borrowers and they still are today. I think I developed a love of the Chilliwack Library through my parents’ love for it. I spent more time in libraries as a school-aged child at F.G. Leary. I still remember the librarian, Mrs. Greenwood. Being in the library as a little girl left a really big impression on me, and when I was a young mother I was a library volunteer in Vancouver at Collingwood school.”

To this day, Victoria remembers the names of several Chilliwack teachers who helped embed the importance of delving into a bit of fiction. She remembers her Grade 7 teacher Chuck Charles reading aloud from As the Red Fern Grows as “one of those moments in childhood that sticks with us.”

Likewise, teacher Val Morris “was really influential in forming my love of literature.”

But her mother was the impetus for this multi-generational love of books, and for this single but enormous gift, the collection bears her name.

“My mother was just this sort of person,” Victoria said. “She didn’t want just to help her own children, she wanted everyone to learn to read.”

To see a video of the private reception, click here.

Photo below: Victoria Rogers gives her mother, Celia D. Rogers, a kiss during the unveiling ceremony. JENNA HAUCK/ PROGRESS