Teacher honors son's memory by giving away books

Susan Kamins, left, helps Gabriela Miner choose a book at Whetstone Elementary, where Kamins gave two books to every student.
Susan Kamins, left, helps Gabriela Miner choose a book at Whetstone Elementary, where Kamins gave two books to every student. (Meghan Tierney/the Gazette)
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By Meghan Tierney
The Gazette
Thursday, March 18, 2010

Even before he could read, Aaron Kamins was fascinated with books. Kamins was 21 when he died of cancer two years ago, and his mother is keeping his memory alive at Whetstone Elementary School by helping spread his love of reading.

Susan Kamins, a kindergarten teacher at the Montgomery Village school, collected more than 600 books and distributed two to every student March 4 in honor of what would have been her son's 23rd birthday.

"I wanted to do something to commemorate him, and he always loved books and reading," said Kamins, of Germantown.

"A lot of kids don't have access to their own books, and I figured this would be a good thing to do to honor his memory," she said.

Kamins, with the help of staff members at Whetstone, visited each classroom with carts full of books, each with a plaque inside the front cover that said "Donated by Aaron's Book Buddies."

Kamins began organizing the book drive in December and collected about 200 books each from Walter Johnson High School in Bethesda, which her son had attended, and the Scholastic children's publishing company.

She also received donations of books from nursery schools and Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School, where Kamins's daughter, Shira, is a Spanish teacher. Books that are too advanced for elementary readers will be donated to the libraries at Montgomery Village Middle School and Watkins Mill High School.

"It's the best dream come true, because now I have my own Nancy Drew book that I can read whenever I want," said Jeeva Thaivalappil, 10, of Montgomery Village, after carefully choosing her books.

Paola Flores, 6, of Montgomery Village, was excited to read her books because "I like to imagine," she said. "You can do anything."

When Aaron was 8 months old, he would keep himself preoccupied on long car trips by looking at his favorite picture books, his mother said. Later he became a voracious reader and particularly enjoyed science fiction and fantasy.

Aaron, a tech-savvy student who liked to build computers, withdrew from high school in his senior year and later earned a GED diploma without studying for the test, his mother said.

He was taking classes at Montgomery College and had just gotten a job at a financial securities firm when, in February 2008, he received a diagnosis of osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer.

He died 10 months later, after the cancer spread to his lungs.

"He was very easygoing and very bright, very curious about everything," said Kamins, who also has a grown son, Joel, who lives in Florida.

"He always had a book in his hand and even toward the end, he still loved to read."

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