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A conversation in the Clemens Primary School library and a visit to the school district office are stops on this week’s drive.

Our stops included an interview with a volunteer that didn’t feel entirely comfortable about talking to a newspaper reporter but put herself out there in hopes of bringing attention to a program and perhaps attracting others to donate their time.

Our other stop focuses on a longtime school district employee who will certainly be missed.

Let’s get right to our drive:

First stop — Clemens Primary School

Reading did not come easy to my older son. As he moved through school, the challenges became greater and greater with every subject. If a child has below average reading comprehension, it’s not easy to work through science and social studies and well, just about any subject.

He’s 24 now and doing great but I’ve always carried a lot of guilt for not making the time to read to him when he was young. The excuse I try to tell myself? I was a single father all those years and putting out the newspaper seemed to take up all of my time. But it’s no excuse. It’s also about choices and time management and if you care enough, you can create those opportunities.

That’s the approach I’ve taken with my younger son, who is 23 months old. I’ve been reading to him since he was born and his library of books has grown. Sitting down and reading books with mom or dad is one of his favorite activities and we’ve noticed a vocabulary explosion in him over the past few months. It’s obvious that reading to him has impacted this because he points out things to us that he’s learned about in our books.

I sat down Thursday morning with Stephanie Brandt, the SMART Reading program coordinator at Clemens Primary School. I’m just so impressed with this program and how it can impact those youngsters.

“We do focus on pre-K through third graders and that’s mainly because meeting the third-grade reading standard, there’s a positive correlation with that and graduating high school on time,” Brandt said. “So, we focus on trying to support children to meet that third-grade reading standard so all of the opportunities after that are available to them.”

SMART Reading increases the potential that these children possess. Besides, reading can be fun. Back when I was in school, reading represented an escape from the challenges I had through childhood, which ranged from divorcing parents to attending 13 different schools because we moved all the time.

“We want kids to learn to love reading because when you love reading, you’re going to want to read stories, you’re going to want to pick up books where you’re going to learn topics of interest to you,” Brandt said. “The more times you pick up books because you enjoy intersecting with them, the reading skills are going to come.”

Last week, I took my young son to the library for the weekly reading program. One of the titles was one of his favorites, “Little Blue Truck.” He was excited to the tune of blurting out, “beep, beep, beep.”

“The child has that connection and they instantly want to pick up that book and read it,” Brandt said about situations such as those. “I think that’s really important when reading might be a challenge to a child. When they enjoy the process of trying to learn to read, they’re going to keep trying.”

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For more information on SMART Reading and how to volunteer, read the front-page story that features Brandt. It represents the first installment in a new series of articles that I’m calling City of Volunteers. My plan is to write a feature that highlights some of the great volunteers that we have here around Philomath.

Final stop — Philomath School District Office

Through the years, I’ve listened to many stories about folks who have been impacted by CPR — both from the point of view of helping others or as a victim that lived become of the actions of someone else.

While chatting with Janet Skaugset Thursday afternoon for a story about her retirement from the Philomath School District, she recalled an incident years ago when CPR training may have helped prevent a serious medial situation.

Skaugset had just completed her first-ever CPR class after taking a job with the Philomath School District as an attendance secretary at the elementary school.

Said Skaugset, “Within the first five months, I had a kid come into the health room and say, ‘I’m not feeling good’ and you kinda wonder, are they groaning or whatnot? I just had my class and they talked about pains in the abdominal area and when they point to a certain spot.”

Skaugset realized what the child seemed to be telling her.

“I called the mom and said, ‘I’m not sure, but this kid is not pointing to my stomach hurts, they’re pointing right there,” she said, pointing to her abdominal area. “I think you’d better go get it checked out.”

It turned out to be a very important phone call.

“They said the kid was just within minutes of having his appendix burst, so I was like, ‘score!’ I couldn’t believe it and thought, ‘did I really do that?’ You just never know.”

Skaugset has seen children suffer broken bones and other health issues over the years but it didn’t quite have the impact of that brush with appendicitis.

“I think that was the scariest because that really could’ve been serious if it had gone too much further,” she aid. “You just never know on any given day what you’re going to run into.”

Skaugset was scheduled to work her final day on Monday of this week.

Thanks, Janet, for all of your help by responding to my district questions and offering to set up a place for me to work at school board meetings. Best of luck in retirement.

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Brad Fuqua is editor of the Philomath Express. He can be reached at brad.fuqua@lee.net or 503-480-6919.