When Marlene Uyttevroek (pronounced “EYE-teh-vrook) began to speak to the 4th and 5th grade students at Meadowlark Elementary School Friday afternoon, they had no clue what she was saying.

When Marlene Uyttevroek (pronounced “EYE-teh-vrook) began to speak to the 4th and 5th grade students at Meadowlark Elementary School Friday afternoon, they had no clue what she was saying.

“Wilkommen! Goedenavond,” Uyttevroek said to the kids seated on the lunchroom floor in front of her. “Mijn naam is Marlene...”

She was, of course speaking Dutch. “Welcome. Good afternoon. My name is Marlene.”

Uyttevroek was there to give the students a presentation about her ancestral country, Holland, as part of Reading Celebration, an initiative teacher at the school devised to promote reading. This month’s theme is mulitculturalism, said principal Brian Foreman, and teachers spent the week talking with their students about different cultures and countries.

“We wanted them to learn about children from other countries, what their lives are like compared to ours,” he said.

Uyttevroek, clad in traditional Dutch garb, including a bonnet, apron and wooden clogs, or “klompen,” spoke about how here grandfather grew up living in a windmill, and how her father immigrated to the United States when he was three-years-old. Her mother, she said, grew up in small town in Iowa where the residents spoke only Dutch. And many of the roads in Holland, she continued, are actually canals, rather than paved streets.

The kids really perked up when Uyttevroek taught them to count to 10. The number eight was especially popular.

“You’ve really got to clear your throat when you say “acchhhtt,” she said.

The opportunity was too much, prompting a noisy chorus of “ccchhhhhch!” from the giggling crowd.

Her wooden shoes, which typically are worn in the garden, Uyttevroek said, were also very popular.

“Oh, yes. They’re very comfortable, unless you have to walk in them,” she said to a small, brown-haired girl.

Then Uyttevroek opened the floor to questions, which ranged from “where do the kids play (because of the canals),” to whether Dutch children get to celebrate Halloween.

Of particular horror to many of the students was the fact that most Dutch families don’t have stockings for “Sinterklass” to fill at Christmas.

“Whaaaaaatttt?” they gasped in unison.

Things also cost much more in Holland, Uyttevroek said. Which prompted a girl to inquire about how much a dog would cost there. That Uyttevroek didn’t know wasn’t good enough for another girl, seated on the front row.

“Well? How much are the dogs?” she asked, seriously.

Uyttevroek first began her presentation on Holland with her five children, and then for one of her granddaughter’s classes. It’s something she now can’t imagine not doing.

“I like kids and love children, and I love having a good time with kids,” she said. “I hope they’ll have a little knowlege about Holland, and that they know there are other countries where the people speak another language and have other traditions.”

Second and third-grade teacher Gail Ewan, said the program originally was designed to have parents come read with the kids, but that the teacher’s loved the idea ot Uyttevroek presenting to the students. That excite transferred to the kids, Ewan continued, and has been a success so far.

“There’s always excitement when you mention “celebration,” she said.