The Oldest Student by Rita Lorraine Hubbard



In 1848, Mary Walker was born into slavery. At age 15, she was freed, and by age 20, she was married and had her first child. By age 68, she had worked numerous jobs, including cooking, cleaning, babysitting, and selling sandwiches to raise money for her church. At 114, she was the last remaining member of her family. And at 116, she learned to read. From Rita Lorraine Hubbard and rising star Oge More comes the inspirational story of Mary Walker, a woman whose long life spanned from the Civil War to the Civil Rights Movement, and who--with perseverance and dedication--proved that you're never too old to learn.

Targeted Vocabulary:

  • Garments - clothes
  • Abandoned - to be left behind or forgotten about
  • Civil rights - for all people to be treated equally
  • Billboards - large outdoor boards with information on them
  • Cockpit - to space inside of a plane or helicopter for the pilot and crew

Resiliency Skill/Theme

  • Perseverance - to keep going and not give up when something is difficult or takes a long time
  • What have you learned that took you a long time to learn? Why did you keep trying to learn this thing? Write about it in your journal.
  • In the book, The Oldest Student, Mary Walker began learning how to read when she was 116 years old. It took her five years to learn, which showed that she had perseverance.


Check out Literacy Lunch with Lee for free English lessons--new videos are focused on the featured interactive read-aloud.

We were the people who were not in the papers. 

We lived in the blank white spaces at the edges of print. It gave us more freedom. 

We lived in the gaps between the stories.

Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid's Tale