Students across the country celebrated Read Across America Day on March 3 in honor of Dr. Seuss’s birthday which was March 2 and to encourage children to read. While this was the 17th year that Random House and the National Education Association (NEA) has celebrated this program, for the seventh consecutive year approximately 40 student-athletes from Hamburg Area School District’s Leadership In Student Athletes (LISA) program traveled to Tilden Elementary Center to read to students in kindergarten, first grade and second grade.
The student-athletes not only wore their bright, neon yellow LISA shirts, but also all wore Dr. Seuss “Cat in The Hate” stovepipe hats while speaking and reading to the elementary students.
“I ask each LISA member to bring their favorite children’s books from home. Most bring extra,” said Aaron Menapace, Hamburg Area School District Athletic Director. “My favorite component of this event is the benefit derived by both the high school and elementary students.”
Each student-athlete took a room and held a captive audience during the program. The elementary students sat on the floor and carefully listened to the high school students read some of their own favorite books and ask questions along the way.
“I picked ‘The Cat in the Hat Comes Back’ because it is a classic book that they all would enjoy and it never gets old,” said Robby Henne, LISA member. “I thought it was a fantastic experience reading to the students because we teach a great lesson and I believe we make a huge impact on them.”
The goal of the program is to motivate children and teens to read and bring awareness to the importance of reading and what it offers.
“I let the children vote on which book they wanted read to them,” said Blake Roberts, LISA member. “It was a phenomenal experience and to see the amazement in their faces was so touching.”
It was not only the elementary students that benefited from the program, but also the high school students.
“The primary benefit to the high school students is the self-satisfaction that they’re giving back to a future generation through teaching, advocating and modeling reading as a worthwhile activity,” said Menapace. “Secondarily, the high school students receive the benefit of public speaking. It is positive anytime teenagers can get out in front of an audience to speak. Lastly, I truly believe the high school participants are more likely to engage in meaningful reading as they grow older, in part due to their experience in the program.”
During the readings, the elementary students had their eyes focused on the reader and would eagerly respond to questions asked during the reading of the book. The student-athletes encouraged them to respond and often asked questions such as what their favorite books were or if they experienced something similar to what was happening the story.
“Really sharing the importance of reading as a whole and just spending time with them was awesome,” said Roberts on the experience.
“My favorite part would most definitely be how great of an impact we make on them and how much they look up to us,” said Henne. “The faces they give and smiles they give us when we walk in is priceless.”
Part of being in the LISA program is to promote the concept of character counts and in doing so the student-athletes teach, enforce, advocate and model the Six Pillars of Character (as identified by the Josephsen Institute of Ethics) being trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and citizenship. These members are role models to their younger peers and the elementary students’ excitement is visible during activities such as Read Across America Day.
“The primary benefit for the elementary students is they are receiving a positive message from their peers. Positive peer pressure, if you will,” said Menapace. “Also, the elementary students are having the value of reading reinforced by older role models. The long term benefit, hopefully, is that in some way the younger kids want to engage more in reading.”
Not only do the student-athletes advocate the importance of reading by taking time to read aloud to the younger students, but they also have an opportunity to verbally tell the elementary students why they should read.
“I believe promoting reading is important not only to get a good grade on your book report, but a book can affect you in a wide range of ways, from motivating you to teaching you,” explained Henne. “People can learn a lot from reading just one book and that one book could take you a long way in life.”
“It should be promoted at a young age so the children fully understand the importance of reading and how it will benefit them in the future,” added Roberts.
The elementary students also walked away with a few freebies as well.
“Lastly, the tangible, immediate benefit is each of the elementary students received a free [Dr. Seuss] pencil, eraser and book mark through the program,” said Menapace.
The program is sponsored by The Outten Family of Dealerships for the second year. Along with this event, LISA also collected canned goods at certain sporting events to donate to the food pantry and speak to the students about the six pillars, as well as other events.
“I have a great appreciation for Mr. Outten, because without his generosity this program would not operate as effectively as it does,” said Menapace. “Word has spread about our LISA program and I’ve been asked to speak at the PA sate AD’s conference later this month.”
For more information on LISA, visit http://www.hasdhawks.org/athletics.cfm?subpage=601129.
Follow The Item on Twitter @hamburgitem.