Sam Baker, 99, is a veteran, a father, a grandfather and, most recently, an author who lives in Scottsdale, Arizona.
You’d never know it now, but Baker struggled with reading as a child. He told Fox News that he was taught the “sight say” method in school and never learned to read phonetically until he was an adult.
Despite the challenges he faced, he learned to love books and reading in the ninth grade, when he was required to write monthly book reports.
At age 19, four months after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Baker joined the Marine Corps, and he served until 1947. At that point, he joined the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, formerly known as the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey.
As he raised a family, Baker loved to tell his kids stories — especially focusing on a character named Herman who was a worm.
After working at NOAA for three decades, he retired.
At the age of 95 is when Baker’s son proposed that he start writing children’s books.
“Most of us have a bucket list that we never have time to do, until life presents us with spare time, and that is what happened to me,” Baker told Military.com. “When I purchased my first computer, my son called and said, ‘Dad, now that you have a computer, why don’t you write down the stories you told us when we were kids, for your granddaughter?’
“It was a perfect time, and I wrote my first book.”
That became “The Silly Adventures of Petunia and Herman the Worm,” which was published in 2018. He pulled from the tales he used to weave for his kids and immortalized them on the pages of the book.
Bitten by the writing bug, Baker launched into another project: “Oscar the Mouse,” published in 2020.
For this story, he drew from his childhood experience of owning a pet rat. He said that despite most people’s disgust, his rat was clean and an excellent pet.
“When I was a youngster, somebody gave me a white rat as a pet,” Baker said.
“She and I used to have a good rapport. But my mother wouldn’t let me take her in the house, so I had to build a cage for her outside.”
Baker did make some changes for his book, including changing the gender of the character and changing it from a rat to a mouse, “because people accept mice over rats.”
Now nearly 100 years old, he has yet another book in the works that he hopes to have completed this year. It will continue the adventures of Oscar.
Books are more than just an opportunity for Baker to create. For this grandfather and veteran, reading is an essential skill that he hopes to encourage through his work.
“Reading is a foundation for all other learning,” he said. “If you don’t know how to read, you’re going to have a hard time learning.
“If I could just get one child to learn to read, that would be worth all the problems and the costs. I’m not making any money. I don’t want to make money. I want children to learn to read.”
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.