Breed the need to read

Vivian Blevins - Contributing Columnist

How important is reading? Can a mother’s endorsement of this skill by reading to her children, modeling reading, and purchasing books for her little ones impact their future?

Harriett Ellen Burch, 14, was set to graduate from Piqua Central High School by age 15 when her father contracted typhoid fever. Harriett’s mother was forced to return to her role as a teacher in a one-room school in Washington Township in Ohio. As the oldest child, Harriett was destined to drop out of school to care for her father and four younger siblings.

When Harriett married four years later at age 18, reading remained central to her life, and her son Benjamin says, “We had no television, limited use of a radio but a big focus on reading. My mother was very bright, spoke some German, and was an avid reader.”

Hiser joined the U.S. Army after graduating from high school and immediately began taking any opportunities available to take college courses. He left the U.S. Army in 1953 after serving as a medic and surgical technician in Korea and had a family to support. With a five-point bonus on the civil service exam for having served in the military and five more points for a service-connected disability, he became a letter carrier for the U.S. Post Office. After 6 years and 9 months of delivering mail, he joined Mid-Continent Properties, Inc., for 14 years and 9 months.

While working, Hiser had been earning college credits and graduated with a B.A. in history from the University of Dayton in 1977. In that year, he decided to become a full-time student at the U.D. School of Law, from which he earned his law degree in 1980.

He attributes his success in college to his reading ability, a gift from his mother, and his decision to be an attorney to his older brother who had also served in Korea and had a law degree from the University of Arizona. The advice from his brother Harold was that Hiser should go to law school because he’d make more

money. This, according to Hiser, was “the only bad advice my brother ever gave me.”

Money was scarce in those early years of practicing law, and Hiser says, “It’s amazing how little you know. Excellent reading skills are imperative, and anyone who came in had an issue that required extensive research. The first time I ever walked into a court room, I was so nervous I almost wet my pants.”

As a member of the Miami County of Ohio’s Public Defender staff, Hiser reports on his most challenging case: A parolee, who had served a lengthy sentence for murdering his mother by beating her to death with a shotgun, was charged with kidnapping and raping a woman. The accuser assumed if the parolee were convicted, he would go to prison for the remainder of his life. The parolee had been violating the terms of his parole by hanging around a bar where he met his accuser, and he and she were driving around southwestern Ohio visiting his former prison buddies when she decided to drive across the state line into Indiana, another parole violation. He objected. She got out of the vehicle and called a former boyfriend and filed the complaint of kidnapping and rape against Hiser’s client.

Prior to trial, Hiser did extensive research of persons with knowledge of the case, and a woman who was to testify on behalf of the accuser hid out in the bathroom on the third floor of the courthouse and wouldn’t come out. The judge sent a bailiff after her. Hiser’s first question when she took the stand was, “Why did you lie?” Hiser won the case, and his client was returned to jail for a short time for parole violation.

Hiser retired from the practice of law at age 82 in August of 2012, and he still misses the camaraderie of those with whom he worked.

With post-9/11 benefits as well as others, colleges and universities throughout the country are ready to help veterans chart their futures. Whether the visions mean a certificate or graduate degrees, veterans need to know that they are supported by Americans. We thank these men and women for their service, and we want that gratitude to be realized in our support for education which will lead them to rewarding careers.

Vivian Blevins

Contributing Columnist

Dr. Blevins has taught undergraduate and graduate students as well as prison inmates, and now teachescommunication and American literature classes at Edison State Community College. Reach her at (937)778-3815 or

Dr. Blevins has taught undergraduate and graduate students as well as prison inmates, and now teachescommunication and American literature classes at Edison State Community College. Reach her at (937)778-3815 or