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.