By Nancy Gutierrez
Woodlake Police Lieutenant and Exeter resident Ron Hughart has been given some good news about his book "The Place Beyond the Dust Bowl." It is now an educational tool for high school and college students.
The Tulare County Office of Education's Instructional consultant Marsha Ingrao wrote a study guide to use in class with Hughart's book. The study guide is aligned to the California State Standards for English and social studies for grades nine through 11.
"I'm humbled that someone thought enough of my book to go to all the trouble to produce a study guide for educators to use everywhere," Hughart said. "All you have to do is go to any search engine and type in 'The Place Beyond the Dust Bowl study guide' and like magic there it is."
In the study guide Ingrao wrote, "Reading is to learning as food is to living. If you don't like to read, take a break from what you have to read, and read something fun. If you hate to eat, start with chocolate. If you hate to read, start with "The Place Beyond the Dust Bowl," a success story about a man who didn't like to read. He learned to read, and taught himself many fascinating things. Through his adventures and hard work, he became a reading success story."
Hughart was recently told that his book is also required reading in two classes at the College of the Sequoias in Visalia.
"Our dean read it and said if we wanted some insight into our student's lives we should read this book," English professor Connie Lake said. "I read it then adopted it in class."
Lake said there were several reasons why she decided to implement the book in her curriculum. She said students could relate to the book because it talks about the area.
"It's also very inspirational," she said. "He had a tough life and he created a nice life for himself. Students with similar backgrounds think, 'if he can do it I can do it.'"
Ingrao agreed and writes that migrant students today face many of the same difficulties that Hughart faced growing up.
"It also relates to California History standards at grade 11," she said.
Ron was amazed when several college students showed up at a recent book signing asking for his signature in their books so they could receive extra credit in class.
"What a rush that was," he said.
The book tells the story of the plight of Hughart's migrant family from Oklahoma who fled to California and the West to start a new life. The tale depicts the families struggle for survival in California through the 1950s and 1960s.
Hughart never imagined his book would be utilized by teachers as a classroom resource. He said the idea for the book started three years ago when he and his sisters were telling stories about his childhood.
"My brother in-law said I should write these stories down. Initially I did it for my children and prospective grandchildren," he said.
But after friends encouraged Hughart to have his manuscript published, it was clear that the stories were a history that other families shared. Now his book can be found at the National Center for John Steinbeck and is up for a Benjamin Franklin award for excellence in publishing.
Hughart published a second book titled, "Last day of the season: from a baseball's point of view," and is working on Chapter 5 of his second dust bowl book.
Both of Hughart’s books can be purchased at the Book Garden located at 189 E. Pine Street.