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Colorado first lady promotes literacy

Julie Sutor
Special to the Daily/Carl ScofieldColorado's First Lady, Frances Owens, reads from "C is for Centennial: a Colorado Alphabet," to 24 Summit Cove Elementary third-graders.
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SUMMIT COVE – Summit Cove Elementary students Connor Hebert and Matthew Solomon pulled out all the stops for National Read Aloud to Children Month.

The two third-graders invited Colorado’s first lady, Frances Owens, to pay them a visit.

“Dear First Lady Owens,” Hebert wrote, “We would like you to come and read to our third-grade class. October is National Read Aloud to Children Month.

“We have exciting classmates. Our teacher is interesting and wacky. Her name is Miss Baumgartner.

“It would be an honor for us if you came. I think it would be a wonderful trip to come up here and get a glimpse at nature and see the snow on the peaks S You could bring your favorite book.”

And she did.

The wife of Gov. Bill Owens visited Vicki Baumgartner’s third-grade class for more than an hour Thursday morning, when she read from the book, “C is for Centennial: a Colorado Alphabet.”

“I love this book,” Owens said, “because it’s all about Colorado.”

The first lady illuminated the students on many Colorado treasures, including the Mesa Verde cliff dwellings and indigenous fauna such as big horn sheep and the Colorado hairstreak butterfly.

Owens also told the class how important reading is to her life.

“Professionally, I couldn’t do this job if I couldn’t read. Being able to express yourself well is going to help you in everything you do from now on.”

Owens is one of many guest readers in Baumgartner’s classroom this month.

By mid-November, the 24 students also will have hosted an Olympic skier, two firefighters, high school and middle school students, and the school district’s assistant superintendent.

According to Baumgartner, adults can’t underestimate the value of telling children that reading is important.

“We can’t expect them to intuitively know what we know as adults,” Baumgartner said. “Later on if a child is struggling, I can refer back to these visits and talk about how important and worthwhile reading is that these people came and spent this time with (the students).”

The students brimmed with enthusiasm for Owen’s visit.

“I’ve never been with such an important person in my whole entire life,” said 8-year-old Mackenzie Rogers. “I liked the part when she was reading the book to us.”

“(Owens) is very helpful, honored and esteemed. She’s very important to Colorado,” Hebert said.

Owens will read to 25-30 classes around the state this year, as part of her efforts to promote literacy.

“I love going into the classroom,” Owens said. “I’d rather talk to kids than to CEOs.”

The first lady, who recently separated from her husband, continues a schedule of official engagements for her pet causes, such as reading.


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