Bookworms and Whangdoodles


Before I had kids, I had no idea the amount of time parents have no clue what they are doing. It is like Olympic level winging-it out there, and it lasts lifetimes.

The world is on much shakier ground than I realized.

The only advice I should ever give other parents is this: When you don’t know what to do, default and do something you are really good at.

For me, that is reading.

In this town of world-class athletes, I am a bookworm. But, like, a really kick-booty, extreme, backcountry, free-range, adrenaline-junkie bookworm.

Watch out.

So when it comes to volunteering at school, I default to reading.

Elke Govertsen in Whangdoodleland

I am happy to read with them individually, but my true joy comes down to reading chapter books to the entire class.

When I was nine, I moved to Alaska. New school. Super nervous.

But my teacher read “Where the Red Fern Grows” and I remember getting so lost in the story that it became OK. I grew up in a family of read-aloud-ers and know something magic happens when you share a story that way.

So I read in my kids’ classes and always marvel at how the whole room eventually settles into the story, lost together. I am currently reading “The Mouse and the Motorcycle” to my youngest’s first grade class, and just finished “The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles” with my eldest’s third grade.

Something magic happened during that one.

As author Julie Andrews (yes—Mary Poppins!) wove her tale and searched for the Whangdoodle, this class was more swept up than I knew was possible.

Every day when I would come to class (chapter books do need to keep a steady pace), more drawings of the adventures graced the walls. The book is purposefully NOT illustrated nor made into a movie, just so that the reader’s imagination is put to work—so cool.

Elke's son plays in Whangdoodleland.

Eventually, the room was transformed into Whangdoodleland and the holiday party had given way to a Whangdoodle party, all at the kids’ direction.

They invited parents, staff, and the principal to tour Whangdoodleland. They remembered details of the book that I did not. I am hoping that as they grow up, they will remember how much they loved this story and reading.

And I really hope they remember how much I loved reading with them.

Pax, Amor, et Lepos Iocando — the motto of Whangdoodleland.

“Peace, love, and a sense of fun”


Check out more from one of Missoula’s FAVORITE Mamas About Town, Elke Govertsen: F’ing Laundry,  Norman Rockwell’s Got Nothing on Missoula, or  The Right Guy.  And check out Missoula Children and Nature Network and Active Moms Missoula.

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Mamalode's Elke Govertsen and her boysElke Govertsen is the publisher of Mamalode which is a magazine and website for area moms. When not juggling her family, business, and the laundry (disclosure – there is no laundry being done whatsoever), Elke tries to eek out time to write, do yoga, and read like a fiend.