Kelso third-graders’ letters are reminders to be grateful

Nov. 28 Daily News editorial

On a day reserved for the giving of thanks and expressions of appreciation, we’d like to express our thanks to a group of our youngest readers — Ms. Kari Klayum’s third-grade class at Butler Acres Elementary School in Kelso.

Earlier this month, Ms. Klayum gave her students an assignment we thoroughly endorse — the writing of a letter to the Editor. The topic was predetermined as students were told about the charitable good works done by Lower Columbia CAP and the upcoming arrivals of cold, winter weather and the holiday season, traditionally associated with gifts. Given some basic information about CAP and its programs, they were expected to draft a letter urging readers to donate.

Well, how did they do?

We think they did just fine, many of them choosing to begin in one of the ways we like our reporters to begin stories — by putting some eye-catching facts in front of a reader who may not be aware of them. Most of the students opted to lead with numbers that outline the scope of CAP’s involvement with Cowlitz County and the scope of the county’s issues — beginning with the revelation that one in every four Cowlitz families qualifies as “poor” under federal guidelines and that 10.6 million American school children are eligible for free or reduced-price lunches at school but are not yet receiving these benefits.

We’ll give extra credit to Clover, who noted that the estimated number of hungry children in the United States (16 million) is approximately the same as the number of tourists who visited Disneyland in 2011. Taking a different tack, a classmate named Tiernan took the same figure and determined it was equivalent to “177,000 school buses full of kids,” which would make for quite a traffic jam at morning drop-off or afternoon pick-up at Butler Acres. Painting these images with words adds drama and reader engagement.

Emily Thompson, for example, sounded horrified to discover “There are also people living in cars with no heat.”

May she always be shocked to learn this.

A classmate named Hope picked up on the same idea, but personalized the inhabitants of the unheated car as “A grandmother and two children.” We found that effective.

Given their options on closing, most students went with something along the lines of “Please donate to CAP!”

That wasn’t quite enough for Preston S., who challenged his readers with the question “Would you like to freeze to death?” We can’t imagine he got too many “yes” answers on that one. More typical was Devyn, whose letter was composed almost entirely of questions and ended with “I would not like to be cold or hungry, would you?”

We can assure you, Devyn, that we would not.

Mia chose a call to action, writing “Did you know you can donate things to CAP like warm clothes, food, blankets and lots of other things? Lots of people don’t have these things. Will you donate some things to CAP?”

While we’re searching our attics for those donations, we’ll come back to Clover — where we started. “We need to work together to help families in need,” she said, crystallizing the assignment in 10 well-chosen words.

Sharing and caring, that’s what this day’s about. We thank Ms. Klayum’s class for a timely and well-written reminder.



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