Third-grader Rachel Lane didn’t rush through all the “bases” set up at Northside Elementary School on Thursday night. She spent plenty of time in the library reading several books to a pair of Science Hill High School softball players, then a Mad Hatters basketball player read two books to her in the science lab.
“I like reading, I think it’s really fun,” Lane said. “I just like reading with other people. It’s enjoyable.”
Getting the chance to kick a soccer ball around with the East Tennessee State University men’s soccer team was an awesome third-base activity at All Star Reading Night, but Lane also made sure to take advantage of meeting some new reading partners and rack up a few more Accelerated Reader points.
“It was really fun,” said SHHS softball player Ashley DeGroat, one of many available reading partners. “They weren’t shy. When you talk to them, they’re fine. They were just excited that we were hanging out with them.”
Nancy McDonald, physical education teacher at Northside Elementary, helped plan the sixth-annual event held to encourage family involvement.
“We try to get families of our students to come into the school so that we can get to know them on a more personal level,” McDonald said. “But our focus here is to mix the love of reading with the love of being physically active.”
Another third grader, Najee Woods, said he was a bit nervous to begin reading aloud to someone he didn’t know, but could see himself volunteering to listen to other children read when he plays in the NFL someday.
“My friends and family are here and I get to know new people,” said the 8-year-old. “I got to read and play soccer.”
Getting students excited about reading and athletics is McDonald’s goal, and students sure shot a lot of them with the ETSU soccer players at All Star Reading Night. Reading with Science Hill baseball and softball players, cheerleaders and members of the Johnson City semi-pro basketball team the Mad Hatters was a special treat for children who normally read to teachers and family members.
“In their minds, it’s almost like spending time with a celebrity,” McDonald said. “Those things are just neat to make little lifelong memories.”
DeGroat and teammate Hannah Devotie listened to Lane tell them the tale of “Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed.” DeGroat said she enjoyed hearing the unfamiliar stories, but treasured the re-telling of favorites by Dr. Suess and “I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Pie.”
The willing participation of young adults like DeGroat and Devotie show Northside Elementary students about the importance of reading. The teachers’ devotion is helpful, too.
“Anyone in teaching can tell you, no matter what grade level, there is no 8 to 3 job,” McDonald said. “If you’re going to invest in your students the way you need to, there’s no set schedule.
“We invest in the best investments we can make, and that’s our students’ education.”