WOSTER: Childhood reading can lead to a lifelong habitBack at the end of spring in 1993, our older son Scott finished his graduate work at North Dakota State University, turned in his thesis, hopped in a GMC Jimmy with something more than 140,000 miles on the odometer and headed to California for a Grateful Dead concert.
By: Terry Woster, The Daily Republic
Back at the end of spring in 1993, our older son Scott finished his graduate work at North Dakota State University, turned in his thesis, hopped in a GMC Jimmy with something more than 140,000 miles on the odometer and headed to California for a Grateful Dead concert.
He followed the Dead more or less (“together, more or less in line,” as the song says) across the southern border of the United States from California to Florida and up the Atlantic Coast to New Jersey, then across to the Midwest with a final concert somewhere in Indiana. At that point, he returned to Fargo to pack his belongings and split for good.
I mention that summer of the Grateful Dead not because I’m writing about Scott but because it sets up a modest observation he recently made about his big sister Jennifer. Jennifer is the oldest of three Woster children, 15 months older than Scott and 10 years older than baby brother Andy.
(Andy, it should be noted, finished graduate school at the University of North Dakota, even closer to Canada than Fargo, before moving to Brookings to teach at the university. He left there, I like to say, to see a doctor in Denver. They got engaged, and we lost him to the Rocky Mountains. I mention Andy because his mother likes it when each of the kids gets equal time, but this isn’t about Andy, either, although a parent with writing skills could do a pretty entertaining book on his life.)
Jennifer finished graduate school at South Dakota State University, married the older Widman boy from Mitchell and taught composition at the university for quite a number of years.
She left that position this past year to become director of the Center for the Book within the South Dakota Humanities Council. When she told the family she’d been picked for the position, her brother Scott said, “Wow, director of the Center for the Book. That’s as perfect for her as if I’d get a job as director of the Center for the Dead.”
It was that kind of a perfect fit. In a family of readers, she’s been the most dedicated. It was that way almost from the time she grew old enough to pull herself up and stand in front of our home-made book case that was always jam-packed with novels and histories and biographies and such.
We have a cute photograph of Jennifer about age 3, standing with her back to the camera, hands on her hips and eyes on the books in the case, clearly weighing a decision on which one will take her to the next adventure of the imagination.
The kids were fortunate. We were able to scrape by while they were preschoolers with Nancy at home most of the time. She read one book after another, and when she finished a big stack of them, she’d turn the stack upside-down and start over. I’ve always been a dedicated reader, but I’m afraid much of my reading time and effort has been spent on, well, me. Nancy has always been willing to spend her time reading to the kids — and a generation later, to the grandkids.
Hey, don’t get me wrong. I read to the kids when they were little, and I’ve read to the grandkids, too. Just a couple of weeks ago, I got through most of a book about a damsel in distress before 4-year-old Sage closed the cover and told me Grandma was better at reading to her. No argument there. I make up stories, sing a few songs, but I can’t touch Nancy for reading to kids.
Each of those three fortunate children grew up with a deep respect and even affection for the written word. I like that. I think it’s important.
By the time you read this, if all goes well, Nancy and I will be strolling the venues at the annual Festival of Books in Sioux Falls. Our daughter helped organize the thing. I’m pretty proud she has continued to find a way to earn her way with words and thoughts and books.