Four-year-old Shanya Williams is not very talkative, but thanks to a recent summer reading lesson, she not only spoke up, she knew what to do when she found her 84-year-old great-grandmother unconscious.
Shanya's family credits the children's story "The Lion & the Mouse."
Jannie Alston was baby-sitting Shanya last Saturday, when Shanya realized her great-grandmother was unresponsive. After repeated attempts to awaken Alston by shaking one of her legs as she sat in a chair, Shanya picked up the phone and dialed 911.
The 911 operator initially thought the child might be playing with the phone, but Shanya stuck to her story. She was calling for the police because "grandma won't wake up."
Alston returned to her Wyoming Avenue home Thursday after a medical team took her to Millard Fillmore Hospital. She is now resting comfortably after suffering an apparent seizure or stroke from lesions on her brain.
She is in the care of her daughter, Denise Alston, and Shanya, who refuses to return to her own home until she is absolutely certain her great-grandmother is well enough to be left alone.
Shanya's story of knowing what to do in an emergency has a beginning, a middle and, in this case, a happy ending.
Earlier this summer, Shanya's great-aunt decided they should participate in Mayor Byron W. Brown's 10th annual Reading Rules! 2011 Kids Summer Reading Challenge, which involves reading seven selected books.
"I read her the book 'The Lion & the Mouse,' and Shanya had to do a summary and explain what took place in the book what would you do if you found yourself in the same situation as the characters in the book," said Denise Alston, the great-aunt.
The story involves a mouse captured by a lion. The mouse then tries to strike a bargain with the king of the jungle.
"Let me go, and I will help you someday," the great-aunt recalled the mouse saying.
"But the lion laughs and says, 'How can someone so little help someone so big?' The mouse insists until the lion lets the mouse go."
The lion later gets trapped in a net. The mouse hears the lion crying out in distress and saves the lion.
"The mouse runs over and starts chewing the net to free the lion," Denise Alston said.
She asked Shanya what she thought about the book.
"I'm not too little to help. I can call the police if my grandma needs help," Shanya answered.
"That's when I told her the police number is 911, and she remembered," Denise Alston said.
Shanya's family members weren't the only ones happy with the outcome.
Brown praised the child, saying she will receive special recognition Saturday at the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center, when 1,300 children receive prize packs at an awards ceremony for participating in his summer reading challenge.
"This is a beautiful outcome of Shanya participating in my summer reading program. It shows the power of reading and what it can do in all of our lives. In this case, Shanya possibly saved her grandmother because she read a story that taught her how to use 911 in this kind of situation," the mayor said.
But perhaps the happiest individual in this story is Jannie Alston.
When police cars, a fire truck and an ambulance arrived outside her home and people knocked at the door, the great-grandmother came to and managed to look out the front door.
The sight of so many emergency vehicles shocked her, she said.
Shanya explained to her great-grandmother that she had called 911 because she was unable to awaken her.
"I thank God it wasn't any worse than it was. When I saw all those police cars, I almost fell out again. I thought the house was on fire, and Shanya said to me 'Grandma, I called the police. I couldn't wake you up.' I was just stunned. I really didn't know what to say."
But Jannie Alston knew exactly what to say Thursday.
"I'm so proud of my great-granddaughter that I'm going to buy her a pair of sneakers."