Children's Literacy Champion

illustration of Elaine braund wicker sham by Randy Glass

Elaine Braund Wickersham’s father, a farmer, kept a dictionary on the kitchen table and plenty of books in the house. That early exposure to literature and language fueled a lifelong passion for reading, Wickersham’s son Karl ’89 Sci says: “She was always really passionate about teaching reading and helping children to read.”

Wickersham ’71 MEd, ’78 DEd Edu met her husband, Edward “Ted” Wickersham ’57 Agr, while an undergraduate at Penn State and moved with him to Wisconsin, where she finished her education degree. Upon returning to State College, she earned advanced degrees from Penn State and taught in elementary schools in the State College Area School District. She also was coordinator of children’s events for the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts for three years.

In 1984, Wickersham fulfilled a lifelong dream with Books & Bears, her own children’s bookstore in downtown State College. Her husband built the store’s bookshelves, and two of her sons worked there with her. Less than 48 hours after her grand opening, smoke damage from a fire in the restaurant next-door wiped out her entire inventory. “It took us a while to recover from that,” Karl says, “but she came back stronger,” expanding twice over the years to take over two more business spaces. Books & Bears closed in 1993, when Wickersham opened Elaine Wickersham & Co. in Lemont, which sold children’s books and toys.

Wickersham died May 29, 2022, in State College. She was 83. Besides Karl, she is survived by sons Mark ’87 Agr and Steven ’83 Sci, three grandchildren, and two sisters. —RR