Readers Are Leaders | Chief Bansen fired up about reading |

Readers Are Leaders | Chief Bansen fired up about reading

Squaw Valley Fire Chief Pete Bansen enjoys the outrageous yet wise advice from Mrs. Piggle Wiggle.
Courtesy Tom Lippert |

TAHOE/TRUCKEE, Calif. — EDITOR’S NOTE: Pete Bansen, Squaw Valley Fire Chief, is featured in this week’s Readers Are Leaders, the sixth in a series of interviews about the impact of reading in the lives and careers of local leaders. To read past interviews with leaders who are readers, visit, search “Readers.”

Q: Is reading important in your life/career? How so?

A: Reading has always been one of the great pleasures of my life and continues to be. Developing good reading skills allows you to both enjoy reading and to read efficiently, a critical professional skill that helps you achieve success in business. I also believe that reading good writing helps you learn to be a good writer!

Q: What is your favorite children’s book — past or present?

A: I really love Dr. Seuss’s books, like “The Cat in the Hat,” because they’re written in verse, making them great fun to read, and because they have such unique and original illustrations.

Q: If you were snowed in at a backcountry hut, what reading material would you want to have with you?

A: My favorite writer is John McPhee, who’s written a veritable library of material, so a shelf of McPhee books would be a great start. His book about Alaska, “Coming Into the Country,” seems like a natural for a snowbound adventure.

Q: Why do you think readers are leaders?

A: I think people who are avid readers have a thirst for knowledge, well developed imaginations and, having been exposed to good writing, tend to be good communicators. These attributes give them the ability to come up with ideas and solutions, to develop a vision for how to implement them and communicate that vision successfully to others — the fundamental skills of leadership.

Q: Where is your favorite place to read/when is your favorite time to read?

A: I read anytime and anywhere – I always have a book or magazine with me and I have an e-book app on my iPod. When I was a kid, I liked to read while we were driving in the car. Now, I have a favorite chair with a reading light at home (it’s actually my wife’s chair…). I always read in bed before going to sleep — that’s my bedtime ritual.

Q: What is your child’s favorite book and why?

A: I read the Redwall books (by Brian Jacques) at bedtime to my son, Paul, when he was little and he loved those because of the interesting animal characters and the adventures and conflicts in that series of books. The animals have different accents and dialects and I would imitate their voices and he liked that. I would sometimes fall asleep while reading to him and start saying nonsense words and he loved yelling, “Dad — you’re falling asleep!”


It was hard to stop smiling when interviewing Fire Chief Bansen; humor is a big part of Pete’s approach to life. He arrived for his photo session with a well-used copy of “Mrs. Piggle Wiggle,” a children’s book I remembered loving as a child. Written by Betty MacDonald, Mrs. Piggle Wiggle was a small woman, married to a pirate, who lived in an upside-down house in a neighborhood filled with naughty children. Parents consulted Mrs. Piggle Wiggle for her famous, fantastical, cures for children’s bad habits, such as her advice to parents of children who did not like to bathe, to let the dirt build up and then plant radish seeds on their faces. Within a few days, to the children’s horror, radish plants began to sprout. These stories were based on ones she made up and told her own children.

Theodor Geisel, AKA Dr. Seuss, is another favorite author of Pete’s. The iconic “The Cat in the Hat” was written in response to the demand for a new approach to children’s literature during the ‘40s. Primers such as “Dick and Jane” were deemed too boring. Dr. Seuss’s book, filled with humor, fantastic creatures and whimsy, was an immediate hit. His books also help children develop a love of language through rhyming and poetic rhythm and contain life lessons in generosity, kindness, love of the natural world and the joy and fun inherent in life.

Pete’s joy in reading as a child is a gift he gave to his children and a reminder of the magical and important impacts of reading in a successful and happy life.

Readers Are Leaders is a school readiness initiative of First Five Nevada County, Tahoe Truckee Unified School District and Tahoe Truckee Reads and supports the goal of improved third-grade reading proficiency.

Ruth Jackson Hall is the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District Early Learning Coordinator.

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