My sister (also an educator) is a huge football fan. Her Sundays from August to February are spent with Michael Strahan , Howie Long, Terry Bradshaw and company recapping previously played games and predicting outcomes of future games before the actual four quarters of two worthy NFL teams begin. She may have been more excited than I was when given the opportunity to serve as the children’s author in Fed Ex Field alongside Washington Redskins players. In partnership with the Washington Redskins Charitable Foundation “Redskins Read” program in Richmond, Virginia, elementary schools, I saw how NFL athletes become role models and motivators for children, especially our boys and reluctant readers. Children ages 5-10 spent an entire summer logging reading minutes while receiving previously recorded phone calls from their favorite players, the opportunity to receive prizes, and even receive the chance to have an assembly with these guys. In just three months, one school system in particular clocked over 5 million minutes.
In my position as an author and urban literacy specialist, I travel to inner-city schools training teachers how to teach reading. By working with amazing educators, we are successfully increasing reading test scores, increasing student reading levels, and turning failing schools into full accreditation in just one school year. People have asked for my tricks and ideas and when I’m doing to write a professional book. Thanks to the inspiration of working with the Redskins Read program as well as my recent results, I finally have decided to write a creative professional book appropriately entitled Tackle Reading. In addition to my work, I’ve been fortunate to get 45 fellow literacy leaders, educators, celebrities, organizations and even NFL players to share their tips and advice. Tackle Reading is a resource that will motivate children, support parents, and inspire educators to love literacy! Thanks to corporate giving and individual contributions from NFL players, organizations, and TeeSpring’s #TackleReading campaign (teespring.com/tackle-reading ), this book will be donated to thousands of inner-city elementary schools nationwide.
Since I’ve been working on this book (set to release with football and back to school season 2016), I’ve been researching other NFL players that are dedicated to tackle reading through their own organizations and projects and I am a feeling this is a just a short list. JJ Watt has teamed up with Barbara Bush and her foundation to kick off literacy initiatives in Texas while Desean Jackson has partnered with First Book. The Morgan Moses Foundation supports education as does the Crockett Foundation, the Aaron Brooks Family Foundation, and the work of Dante J. Wesley and Justin Tuck. In Tackle Reading, you will hear the educational contributions of Quinton Spain, Charles Johnson, and Fernando Velasco, all current players in the NFL. All of these guys listed (and so many others) know the importance of building readers in their own communities.
Some of our favorite NFL players have even gone on to write their own children’s books to get children reading. I’ve started a list of below of some titles with familiar names behind them.
1. Family Huddle by Peyton Manning, Eli Manning, and Archie Manning
2. Smitty Hits the Books by former Texas lineman Wade Smith
3. The Little Linebacker by Detroit Lions Stephen Tulloch and Maria Dismondy
4. The Magician’s Hat by Malcolm Mitchell of the New England Patriots
5. Little T Learns to Share by Terrell Owens and Courtney Parker
6. Hey AJ, It’s Saturday by Martellus Bennett of the New England Patriots
7. Ray Bentley has written a series about Darby the Dinosaur
8. Tim Green has his own list of books at TimGreenBooks.com
I know there are athletes from high school to college and professionally that are making a difference on and off the field for the children who look up to them. After my own findings, I want to affectionately say the NFL in my mind means “now for literacy.” I want to thank all of you for helping us tackle reading for children in the US!
You can join these guys and others by supporting #TackleReading today at teespring.com/tackle-reading by purchasing a shirt with our full line up on the back. Every single shirt purchased gives the gift of reading to a child. (https://teespring.com/tackle-reading#pid=370&cid=6534&sid=front )
There is also the opportunity (which some NFL players and organizations have so generously already done) to give a tax-deductible donation to receive national recognition in our Tackle Reading book while also providing books to the location/school/event of your choice in your own community. (Details here: https://kathrynstarke.wordpress.com/2016/04/13/tackle-reading-2/ )
Together, we can tackle reading today!!