Finding his fun by the book Stellar: Even among the book-loving students at Swan Meadow School, Mark Yoder is rated outstanding.

Young reader

November 08, 1998|By Cindy Stacy | Cindy Stacy,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

OAKLAND -- For the Amish and Mennonite children who attend the tiny Swan Meadow School in Garrett County, "reading is a major pastime," says Liz Gilbert, who teaches a combined class of youngsters in sixth, seventh and eighth grades.

When Gilbert asked her students on the first day of school to name their favorite activities, reading was the top item on the list.

"It has a lot to do with their lifestyle," says the soft-spoken teacher.

She considers 11-year-old Mark Yoder a stellar reader.

Yoder, a seventh-grader, arrives at 7: 30 a.m., eager to discuss the latest book he's been reading.

"He gives a book report practically every day," says Gilbert. "It's interesting to watch him with the other students and how he directs their attention to books."

She said students share books, including the extra volumes she's able to check out for six-week intervals from the public library in Oakland -- the biggest town in Maryland's westernmost county. While Mennonites drive cars, the Amish don't, so "many families with children at Swan Meadow can't get to the library easily," Gilbert says.

Reading is more highly valued and has less competition for the attention of Swan Meadow youngsters than elsewhere, because the Mennonite and Amish families do not have televisions or radios.

Every bedroom and the living room in the white-frame Yoder home, where Mark lives with his parents Paul and Naomi and five siblings on their Cherry Kreek dairy farm, has a full bookshelf.

The ban on television viewing comes from the Yoders' religious beliefs. "The church has felt it's got too much bad over good. So we decided not to have it," Naomi Yoder explains.

And besides, who needs television, Mark says, when books are full of adventure and stories about hunters, Indians and horses.

"I like Indians a lot," he says.

An avid collector of arrowheads, Mark is waiting for his family to toss out a living room sofa so he can retrieve a prized spearhead that disappeared into the stuffing. "I know it's there," he says.

One of his favorite books, read this summer, was Betty Swinford's "Mystery of the Vanishing Horses," which Mark borrowed from the Mountain View Mennonite Church's library.

Mark, who is up at 5 a.m. every day to help his father milk cows, squeezes in reading time whenever he can, usually at bedtime.

"I read a couple chapters," he says, "but if I get a real interesting book, I finish it."

VTC Pub Date: 11/08/98

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