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The magic of books: Aumsville women share...

The magic of books: Aumsville women share their love of reading

September, 2012 Posted in Community

The summer reading program in Aumsville attracted many reading enthusiasts.

Mt. Angel Publishing, Inc.

By Mary Owen
Lora Hofmann believes in “children, small towns and reading.”

Like other Aumsville city officials, Hofmann avidly backs the city’s summer reading program with dedication and a lot of volunteer hours.

“I grew up in Willamina, on a farm outside of town,” said the mother of three and grandmother of six. “We didn’t have much money, but we weren’t aware of it. We had food on the table, a great outdoors to play in, and a city library that mom took us to each Saturday after we finished our chores.”

In Hofmann’s growing up days, cable television and computer games were non-existent. Instead, she said, “We were the children in the Box Car Children books, or the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew. We knew all about Pollyanna and Laura Ingalls before there was a Little House on the Prairie TV series. And I am pretty certain I read almost every book in that library.”

A love of reading is something instilled, she said. “If you can read, there is no limit.”

The reading program is a part of Aumsville’s Summer Recreation Program, which just ended its third year.

“From the beginning, Lora scheduled a time during the event when we would read to the kids,” said Maryann Hills, city administrator. “She asked the school if they had anyone that would like to volunteer to read and a couple of teachers became involved.”

According to Hills, the reading program really took off the second summer when Cascade School District shared with the city $1,000 of grant money it had received for the city to buy books to give away during events.

“In this third year, the reading program became a major focus of the new summer day camp event,” she added. “And it was funded through the Ford Family Foundation grant, Marion County’s Reading For All Program and the Cub Scouts Book Drive, along with some other book donations.”

The city will continue to seek funding and volunteers for future summer recreation programs, Hills said.

“It has been a great success that I am certain will have long-lasting benefits in the many lives that have been touched by it!” she added.

Children are given a book every week during the 10 summer day camp sessions, organized by Hofmann, city councilor and Parks and Recreation Committee program director Lorie Walters, and Julie Wisser, assistant vice president and branch manager at Riverview Community Bank.

“I have a 4-year-old daughter, and this program hits the heart of some of the challenges parents face raising healthy, happy children,” Wisser said. “I am passionate about leading by example, and this gave me the opportunity to show children that you can have fun without TV or video games, that reading a book can be a great adventure, and that running and playing outside are not only fun but also good for you!”

Wisser said reading a good book can be priceless. “Reading for me is a lifelong love affair,” she said. “Reading to a young child and opening up their imagination is so special.”

Walters said the program also impacts Aumsville’s youth by “giving them a direction and a goal.”

“They are encouraged to read and record their hours in a log so they can receive a reward at the end of the program,” she said. The program lets kids “continue to exercise their brains during the summer months.”

According to Walters, the young readers logged in well over 1,000 hours this summer.

“I love to read some of the books we give away and then encourage kids to take them and read them at home,” Hofmann said. “We discuss what they are about, and I ask them to tell me about the books they have read that I might enjoy. I think it encourages their creative side and their imaginations.”

The program has become such a success that ideas are floating around to expand the program to twice weekly during the summer and monthly Saturdays, if volunteers and funds are available. To further expand youth opportunities, officials are looking to bring a Boys & Girls Club to Aumsville.

“It’s about investing in what counts: happy, healthy, educated kids,” Hofmann said.

Hills complimented the women’s “dedication, countless hours, energy and experience for making the reading program – and the summer park program – “commendable and heartwarming for so many!”

“One of my favorite childhood memories and most memorable summer was when we lived in Wenatchee, Wash.,” Hills said. “They had a summer park program for kids at a city park. I hope many come away with lifetime memories, as I did, that will benefit generations to come!”

Mayor Harold White said, “Not only do kids continue to ready during the summer, but they get involved with a lot of recreation with the summer program. Also a lot of families have come down and volunteered their time. Instead of families going their own way, doing their own thing, families come together. It’s a great part of the program.”

Hofmann summed the reading program up by saying, “You know, I grew up in a pretty neat place. I want that for my kids. I hope that more people step forward and figure out other ways to make Aumsville a place that is known for its community, family and support of children.”