Syndicated newspaper columnist Heloise meets her fans during a reception held at the Roswell Museum and Art Center, Thursday. Mark Wilson Photo
Heloise provided Roswell with plenty of hints Thursday, as hundreds of fans poured into the Civic Center to hear the internationally-acclaimed syndicated columnist and best-selling author speak on the importance of reading. Her speech, Literacy: Make it Fun, was the featured New Mexico Centennial event for the Roswell Public Library, and came near the 50th anniversary of the Daily Record’s first printing of the original Heloise column.
Heloise took over the column when her mother, Heloise Bowles Cruse, passed away in 1977, and for about 35 years, she has been providing lifestyle tips on such topics as household management, business, travel and health and wellness. Her column Hints From Heloise runs seven days a week and is printed in more than 500 newspapers in the United States and internationally.
Heloise began her speech by sharing the many challenges she faced in reading when she was a child.
“I was born cross-eyed. Severely cross-eyed,” she said. “So cross-eyed that my right eye went in, and I would literally crawl, as a baby, into a chair or a wall. …
“It physically hurt for me to read. So I didn’t like reading. It strained me, I’d get a headache every 20 or 30 minutes. Reading in front of the class was horrible. … So I didn’t really start enjoying reading until I was at college. But then I started reading, and I found it enjoyable and exciting and amazing.”
Heloise, a longtime advocate for literacy, said that years ago she read how correctional institutions use elementary reading levels and skills to determine how many prison beds a facility will need in 16 to 18 years. She said learning this fact truly frightened her, and emphasized the importance of getting children to start reading at an early age.
“What I’d like to say is: If you make reading fun, then your kids can have fun reading. I don’t care if it’s the back of a cereal box or one page in the comics. … If you start them young, they will take care of themselves when they are older.”
Heloise met with several of her fans prior to her speech at a reception outside the Roswell Museum and Art Center, where she offered a few extra hints for parents on reading.
“When kids are a certain age, set the correct boundaries and hold to them,” she said. “And there are certain times you have to bargain — you can say, ‘Okay, you can have an hour of video games, but we’re going to go do 20 minutes of math. … Stand your ground. They might yell at you, say I hate you, but later on, when they’re 20 or 30, they’ll say thanks.”
Heloise closed her speech at the Civic Center by relating how her mother would always take the time to thank volunteers, and stressed the importance of helping out in the community.
“If the volunteers of this country stood down for one day, one day — this country would come to a halt. …
“Most volunteers, particularly in small communities, they do it because it’s the right thing to do. They don’t do it to get in the newspaper, they don’t do it for recognition, they don’t do it to have a luncheon. They do it because it’s the right thing to do. (My mother) truly believed in that, and I do, too. So I want you to know I’m here for you.”
Following her presentation, Heloise autographed her latest book Handy Household Hints from Heloise for her many fans.
The event was sponsored by Friends of the Roswell Public Library, Roswell Daily Record, Xcel Energy and Chaves County Veterinary Medical Association.