Longtime La Jolla residents Christopher and Karen Sickels have donated $1 million to the San Diego State University Library to fund an endowment and visiting scholar fellowships in children’s literature.
The Christopher D. and Karen Sickels Endowment for Special Collection in Children’s Literature will support the National Center for the Study of Children’s Literature, which is one of the oldest and largest programs of its kind in the country.
“Helping the university purchase rare and unique books for children’s literature reflects our love of children and those who devote their lives to educating and inspiring them,” Christopher “Kit” Sickels said.
The Sickels, both SDSU alumni, are former teachers and parents of two grown children.
A real estate developer, he left teaching after three years. His wife graduated from UC Santa Barbara and obtained her teaching credential at SDSU. She taught kindergarten for seven years.
Keeping libraries aliveA collector of rare books who has always loved reading, Sickels said he and his wife also wanted to help the SDSU library continue to be a continuing resource for the campus and larger community, he added.
As libraries move further into the digital age, he said, he hopes they continue to be a place for people to read books, collaborate and study.
“We can’t get rid of books,” he added, calling himself “a bit of a dinosaur.”
“Books seem so much more real than reading off a computer screen.”
Building a businessHis love of books extends to his newest business endeavor: Bray Books, an antiquarian book business with Joe Bray, who spent the past five years in the rare books section of the UCSD Library.
He started his personal collection years ago, he said, but began a more serious effort about 10 years ago.
His collection includes first editions of “Atlas Shrugged” and “Of Mice and Men” along with a nearly complete set of first-edition Dr. Seuss books that he began collecting when his family lived next door to Theodor Geisel.
“When he was alive, he could tell if it was a first edition by the colors,” Sickels said, noting that children’s books don’t show an edition number on them. “He was amazed that anyone would spend $90 on one of his books.”
Today the price of a first-edition Dr. Seuss can reach nearly $20,000, he added.
“I wonder what’d he say now.”