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Davis Journal

Lucile Reading still inspires others through her legacy

Jul 08, 2021 01:52PM ● By Peri Kinder

When Michelle Wardle runs through her neighborhood in Centerville, she usually passes Lucile C. Reading Elementary. Although Wardle was only 14 when her grandmother passed away, seeing Lucile Reading’s name on the school brings back memories of Christmas Eve celebrations, family get-togethers and the strong woman who left a legacy of service and love in Davis County.

“My grandma was determined and I think she was definitely capable and very accomplished,” Wardle said. “I get exhausted when I read her history. She did so much in the community. I try to emulate all her good qualities.”

In 1909, Reading was born in Logan, Utah, the daughter of Louis Samuel Cardon and Rebecca Ann Ballard. She attended Logan High School and graduated in 1931 with a bachelor’s degree in English from the Agricultural College of Utah, which later became Utah State University. She married Keith Reading in 1935 and had two sons, James and Don. 

Reading was passionate about lifting others, especially when it came to education, children and women. She served on the Board of Trustees at Primary Children’s Hospital and the Utah State Federation of Women’s Clubs, but where she really made a difference was when she was elected to the Davis County Board of Education in 1977.

The first three women elected to the Davis school board, Reading, Sheryl Allen and Theo Italisano set out to upset the usual order of business in the district.

“We definitely wanted to make a change,” Allen said. “We were elected to be change agents. The three of us met prior to the first board meeting to decide which one of us we would nominate as president. We knew it had to be Lucile. She had an innate, natural leadership ability, combined with integrity, empathy and thoughtfulness.”

Reading was elected as the first female president of the Davis Board of Education with a vote of 3-2 and set about bringing all school board discussions into an open meeting format, something that had never been done before. 

The first Davis School District board meeting in 1977 was standing-room only. The majority of women in education were teachers, with men representing more than 90 percent of the school administrators. People knew change was in the air, and they wanted a first-hand account of the three female board members making history. 

“We literally changed the culture of the Davis School District by making appointments more merit-based,” Allen said. “We addressed the bidding on capital outlay projects and we certainly changed education in terms of improving opportunities for gifted and talented students.”

Allen first met Reading in the early ‘60s when Reading owned and operated the Mother Goose clothing store in Bountiful. 

“As a child, I’d go with my mother to the Mother Goose store to buy clothes for my sister,” Allen said. “I was always impressed with the lovely lady behind the counter. She had beautiful gray hair, even then, with a beautiful smile on her face.”

Allen went on to serve in the Utah House of Representatives from 1994-2011 and in 2010 was selected by Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon to be his running mate during his gubernatorial bid. They were the first bipartisan ticket for a major office in the history of Utah.

“Women, in particular, grow and nurture and reach out more if they are mentored,” Allen said. “Lucile was my political mentor.”

Reading was devoted to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, serving in many positions including eight years on the Primary General Board and in the General Presidency of the Primary. She established funds to send missionaries to places around the world, and helped create a magazine dedicated to educating and enlightening children.

From its establishment in 1971, Reading worked as the managing editor of the church’s magazine, The Children’s Friend, where she continued her mission to enlighten, uplift and demonstrate her devotion to children. 

Reading loved to read and write, and participated in many book clubs throughout her life. To help further the creation of children’s books, she created the Lucile C. Reading Scholarship for Students of Children’s Literature, awarded to English majors at Utah State University who want to become writers and teachers of juvenile literature. 

Death is usually unexpected, but in Reading’s case, her passing shocked the community. Even at 72, she was still active, working as an editor and serving her third term as president of the Davis School District Board of Education. When she passed away in her sleep on March 22, 1982, she left behind a legacy that continues today.

At the time of her death, a new elementary school was being planned for Centerville. When it was named Lucile C. Reading Elementary, the community approved wholeheartedly.

“People just applauded that decision and embraced it,” Allen said, who served as president of the Davis School Board for six years after Reading’s death. “It was really a comfort to the community. It was a great honor to follow in her footsteps and I will always be grateful to her.”

Lucile C. Reading Elementary serves approximately 430 children each year and is known for high achieving students and outstanding educators. It’s as if her energy permeates the school, lending her spirit to the development of children who love to read, to write, to explore the world and to express themselves. 

Reading Elementary Principal Scott Hughes said most people don’t always understand the heritage of the school. They just know the school is dedicated to creating exemplary students as tribute to an amazing woman.

“Our school’s namesake, Lucile C. Reading, was an amazing person,” Hughes said. “It is important to me that we carry on her legacy. The more I learn about her life, the more impressed I am. She was a trailblazer and a leader in the community . . . Beyond all of that, she was incredibly kind. In a world without enough kindness, we need more Luciles. She is a great role model for our students.” 

Christine Wilcox, one of Reading’s six grandchildren, lives in the historic Reading home in Centerville. She said naming an elementary school after her grandmother is an apt tribute and one that will carry on her name for generations. 

“She always said, ‘Reading is good for you.’ I think it’s really cool that a school is named after her. The legacy she left behind was that she loved learning. She always said you should be the best person you can.”