Reading to the Kids

February 12, 2020 6:29 AM

A Classic G. George Ostrom column from 2002...

February is “I Love to Read Month.” My daughter Wendy talked me into showing slides and my books to the first graders of Muldown School then she somehow committed me to talk at different classes in Cayuse Prairie School last week. Topic was the importance of reading. This led to another appearance in front of four different grades at Fair-Mont-Egan School. My reward for this kind of activity comes in many forms. The biggest payback is just watching the kids’ faces when I tell one of my highly honed stories. I find them much more trusting and believing than the old fogies I hike and fish with.

After talking to the kids, there is always a question and answer period which can be a riot, then a few days later individually done thank-you cards are received. One of those from a first grader at Cayuse Prairie has well done drawings of puppies and butterflies and it says, “Reading is E X Siding.” A card from Chris says, “The books were great. Your cool.” I like that kid right off.

It is amazing what one related incident out of dozens will most impress different little kids’ minds. During a one-hour talk at Muldown, I covered everything from climbing accidents to grizzly bear attacks. Somewhere in there I casually mentioned son Shannon climbing the lofty Kinnerly Peak many years ago and leaving my water bottle up there. Mentioned it was white with a red top. A little boy named Jacob drew an impressive picture of three snowcapped mountains and on top of the middle one is a white water bottle with a red top. Underneath he has written, “Someday I’ll go hiking and get your water bottle.”

Reading that I thought, “What if that actually came to pass? It would be a miracle!” If Jacob is going to climb up there and find my water bottle, he should do it soon after high school because if he waits until he’s out of college I’ll be in my nineties; too old to appreciate getting my bottle back.

The card from Grandson Wyatt clearly illustrates that first graders are learning phonics. It says, “My Gramp tol me that dir traveld in a hrd.” I’ve always said we use way too many vowels.

From the heart, I told those kids that reading has been the one most influential activity in my life. It taught me to clearly understand beyond any doubt that we live in a wondrous world with miracles to see every day. The world is too big and life too short to personally explore it all, so the key to everything is an open book. Books gave me awesome places and things to dream about and that is important. All life’s great adventures begin with a dream.

Since sometime in the second or third grade, I have been what would have to be called a “reading fanatic.” This included old Montgomery Ward and JC Penney catalogs which were in the outhouses of those days. I learned more about mail order work shoes, horse blankets and girdles than I really cared to know.

On a remote ranch and in an even more remote mining camp, there was not a wide selection of reading material. Luckily my maternal grandmother had The Book of Knowledge where I learned many things about the world beyond Flathead and Sanders counties. Grandma also took National Geographic so I got some idea about women being built different than men…at least the top half.