DES MOINES, Iowa — 11-year-old Annabelle Ramirez spends so much time at the Des Moines Public Library, she's practically a celebrity.
"I love the library,” Ramirez said. “I love library books a lot."
Ramirez and her family moved to Iowa from California during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Isolation from the pandemic combined with a transition to homeschooling after some difficulties with public schools, made the library a haven for Annabelle.
"You could just see kind of the life come back to her and she was singing and dancing and finding all these different books and it provided her so much happiness in such a time where I think she felt really alone," said Annabelle’s mom, Micaela Ramirez.
For the Ramirez family, public libraries have not only been a safe place, they've also been the grounds for Anna's growth and development.
"She was diagnosed with autism when she was three," Micaela said. "And even when she was an infant, she would bring us storybooks. And she would show us pictures from there to request items, either drinks or even to go to the park or hugs."
While Anna didn't start speaking until she was about seven years old, Anna's mom Micaela said her daughter's love of books eventually sparked a desire to read out loud.
"We had plenty of professionals that had told us there may be a chance that she will never speak. And it was such a beautiful moment to hear her say words," Micaela said.
Now, Anna loves reading to other kids at the library.
"Reading to the children makes me happy. It made me happy," Anna said.
"She wants to bring them happiness as reading brings happiness to her," Micaela said.
She said seeing her daughter succeed brings her immense pride and joy.
"It's so amazing to see her thrive and beat all the odds and be able to look at those professionals and say 'You know what, sometimes you don't give them enough credit.’ Because I promise you that she's going to break every boundary that you put on her, she's going to excel and get to where no one thought she could be,” Ramirez said.
Naturally, of course, Anna wants to be an author when she grows up.
In the meantime, Anna has a YouTube page called Annabelle's Reading Time, where she reads her favorite stories.