Noted neurosurgeon and conservative columnist Ben Carson spoke to students at Stillwater Christian School about the importance of reading before delivering his keynote speech at the school’s “For A Time Such As This” dinner on March 13.
The Stillwater dinner and address at the Flathead County Fairgrounds has grown into a well-attended annual event and two years ago attracted former National Football League quarterback Tim Tebow. The head of Stillwater Christian, Dan Makowski, said the dinner and keynote address helps promote the school, but also brings interesting speakers to the Flathead.
“We want to bring honorable and influential people to the community,” Makowski said. “That’s who we look for.”
Carson made worldwide headlines in 1987 when he was the first neurosurgeon to successfully separate two 7-month-old craniopagus twins. The operation took more than 22 hours and required a team of 70 doctors, nurses and support staff. In 2008, President George W. Bush awarded Carson with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the country’s highest civilian honor. In 2013, Carson announced that he was retiring from medical practice and has since become a political pundit. Last summer, he became a weekly columnist for the Washington Times. He is also a regular Fox News contributor.
Carson is active in promoting education and has established scholarship funds and a reading initiative, called the Ben Carson Reading Project, which provides funding to schools to build and maintain reading rooms that are warm and inviting so children can discover the joy of independent and leisure reading. Late last year, Stillwater started a Ben Carson reading initiative to encourage all of its students to read more and watch less television. The children that participated had a set number of pages they had to read every week, depending on grade. Every week a student made their reading goal, they got entered into a drawing for a brand new Kindle. They also got a “book buck” to spend at the school’s book fair. At the end of the 15-week project, the 28 children who met their goals received a special certificate and got to meet Carson at a school assembly.
“They get to be recognized by a man who values reading and academics,” said Stillwater elementary school principal Tim Anderson. “But more importantly they get the satisfaction of reading.”
Carson told the students about how reading became an escape and helped him succeed in life.
“When I was younger, I wasn’t a good student, but that changed when I started reading,” Carson said. “It changed my environment from inner-city Detroit to the world. Suddenly, I could go anywhere.
“It made me realize I could do anything I wanted to do,” he said.
Over the course of 15 weeks, Stillwater’s students read more than 255,000 pages on their own time, with students from kindergarten to fifth grade reading the most, at 144,230 pages.
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