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Robie Harris, Often-Banned Children’s Author, Is Dead at 83


For her research she spoke with pediatricians and “anybody who had to do with the health and well-being of kids,” she said. She “read everything I could” and talked to dozens of people. “I wanted the book to be comprehensive,” she said, “and I wanted it to be a place where kids, preteens and teens could go and find the answer to almost every question that they might ask.”

That quality is evident in a film she made with her students in 1967 as a teacher at the Bank Street School for Children in New York City. In the film, “A Child’s Eye View,” she listens carefully to her students, questioning them gently and respectfully. “One of the things we did all the time was to observe the children, and have meetings and talk about the children’s behavior,” she told LibrarySparks.

Ms. Harris was born Robie Heilbrun on April 3, 1940, in Buffalo to Norman and Evelyn (Levy) Heilbrun. Her father was a radiologist. She graduated from Wheaton College in Massachusetts in 1962 with a bachelor’s degree in English, moved to New York City and earned a master’s in teaching in 1966 from the Bank Street College of Education. Her first book, “Before You Were Three: How You Began to Walk, Talk, Explore, and Have Feelings” (1977), was co-written with her cousin Elizabeth Levy.

In addition to her sons, Ms. Harris, who lived in Manhattan, is survived by her husband, William Harris, and four grandchildren.

Her son David recalled that for a children’s math book called “Crash! Boom!,” which is centered on toy building blocks, his mother, then in her 70s, dropped to the floor to see for herself how a castle she had built also fell apart.

“She dealt with kids’ emotions,” David said. “The thing about her was, it was always children, first.”



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