Many children may not think that basketballs and books go together, but students at Ridge Hill School in Hamden now know differently. The elementary schoolers had an opportunity to celebrate Read Across America Day today by finding out how athletics and reading can go hand in hand.
“This week is about getting kids excited not only to work their brains but also to work their bodies at the same time,” says CEA Vice President and Connecticut Education Foundation (CEF) President Joslyn DeLancey.
This year’s week-long Read Across Connecticut celebration from CEF, CEA’s charitable arm, is all about making sure children have fun while linking a love of athleticism with a love of reading. For Read Across America Day, CEF partnered with the Connecticut Sun to bring a basketball clinic to Ridge Hill along with read alouds and free books for students.
Morgan Tuck, a former Connecticut Sun and UConn basketball star and current assistant general manager and director of franchise development for the Connecticut Sun, was on hand to show students some basketball drills, read a book, and answer some questions about her own love of reading.
“We wanted students to celebrate reading in a new and creative way, looking at it as—you don’t have to be one identity as a learner,” DeLancey says. “Sometimes kids feel like they have to be either an athlete or a student, and this bridges the gap between having fun outside of school and being a good learner inside of school.”
“I wasn’t always one who really enjoyed reading, but what helped me learn to enjoy reading was reading a lot of different kinds of books,” Tuck told students. “Now I’m really into sci-fi fiction books. Just try something. Pick up a book. Maybe someone recommends one, and once you try it, you might find it really hard to put it down, and that just makes you want to read even more.”
“Especially for our youngest kids, developing that love of reading is so important. It’s not just a skill, it’s about enjoyment, it’s about building that joy in reading,” says Shelby Irwin, Hamden Education Association vice president and fifth-grade teacher. “The more kids do something fun, like what’s happening in the gym here right now, and connect that to a love of reading, the more exciting reading becomes, and the more they see those worlds interact.”
Amity teacher Peter Downhour serves on the CEA Board of Directors and came to the celebration at Ridge Hill School this morning in his role as a member of the Hamden Board of Education. “We celebrate a lot of things in society, and celebrating something as fundamental as reading is core to what we do in education,” he said. “We celebrate a lot of things, but we definitely need to celebrate reading.”
State Rep. Mary Welander, who serves on the Education Committee and Children’s Committee, visited a number of schools in her legislative district today, including Ridge Hill, to promote a love of reading.
“I love reading, and I will do anything I can to help kids support their love of reading. This is a fantastic day!” she said, watching a group of preschoolers practicing some basketball drills. “Reading opens up new worlds to kids. It gives them opportunities to learn about people who are like themselves and also about people not like themselves, and it sets up a foundation of curiosity and excitement about the world around them. It gives them an opportunity to imagine. The earlier we can get kids set and excited about reading, the better.”
State Senator Jorge Cabrera also read to students in many schools in his district today and explained why he prioritizes encouraging kids to read. “I was a big reader when I was in school, and it changed my life, so I know how magical that can be for kids.”
Cabrera said that, with all of the access to technology that kids have today, he thinks it’s more important than ever for children to learn the joy of sitting down in a quiet place with a good book.
“We need to continue to support our public schools; that’s what I’m going to continue to do in the legislature,” Cabrera says. “I think it’s really important that we fund our public schools fully and make sure our educators have everything they need to make sure we educate the next generation of kids in this country.”
“I really want to thank the Connecticut Sun for being here today—they’ve really gone all out,” said DeLancey. “I also want to thank Hamden Public Schools for welcoming us so warmly to the district. We’re excited to provide books and get them into the hands of learners.”
All elementary school teachers currently have a chance to bring a Connecticut Sun basketball clinic to their school. Enter today for your chance to win.