104-year-old writer collects 104 kids’ books to donate to school library for her birthday

BUDA, Texas (KXAN) — When the senior living and memory care facility where Betty X. Davis lives asked what she wanted to do for her 104th birthday, the lifelong reader had one request.

“She said she didn’t want a big party or any of that. She just wanted to give back and pay it forward,” said Rachel Grover, life engagement director at Sodalis Senior Living in Buda.

Grover asked if she wanted to collect something to donate. “And she said, ‘I think we’ll do books.'”

Davis turns 104 on Monday. By Friday, Sodalis had collected at least 70 children’s books for kids just learning to read all the way through young adult novels.

The facility will donate the collection to a local elementary school library.

“Many children have little choice in books, don’t even like to think about them,” Davis said. An avid reader throughout her life, she taught her kids the value of loving books at an early age.

“You have to enjoy it to keep it up,” said Harvey Davis, the oldest of eight kids Betty and her husband raised.

Becoming a writer

Betty X. Davis has penned dozens of short stories for children.

“She just wrote story after story,” Harvey Davis said. “And of course she worked hard to try to get them published.”

Davis is a founding member of the Austin chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), which awards the Betty X. Davis Young Writers of Merit Award to local young writers every year.

But the pursuit of writing came to Davis later in life. “I never considered being a writer,” she said in an interview published by SCBWI. “No one we knew was a writer.”

After raising a family in Dallas, she said, she became a speech therapist and had to start writing her own curriculum in the 1970s and ’80s. She just kept writing, tallying more than 100 poems, stories and novels.

“I just had lots of children’s books that I loved,” she said.

Now she’s passing that love along to the next generation of readers. Sodalis will collect book donations until Wednesday, then donate them to a school library.