Education Matters: Central Unified librarian using district athletes to help kids read

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It’s fair to say many young people have a favorite athlete they look up to and consider them as role models.

Central High’s Trent Tompkins is a star quarterback in every sense…taking his team to a central section championship. He is lauded for what he does on the football field, district librarian Janet Wile wanted to use his star power as well as that of other top athletes off the field.

“I wanted to try to bring out some of that human side and help the athletes realize that they have a pretty unique position, the fact that they are a high school athlete and they can model affectively for young young students,” stated Wile. 

Wile brought some of the Central Unified School Districts top athletes into classrooms and had them read to elementary students.

“Bringing out those bookmarks they’re all excited, they ask questions the feeling that you get when they show you how important it is,” said Central High quarterback Trent Tompkins. 

All the books carry a message, about not giving up or eating health and the importance of exercise–character traits embodied in these athletes. 

“Definitely putting the younger kids in the direction to be great, tell them make sure you’re eating vegetables, make sure your exercising, make sure you’re staying focused in school,” said Makayla Lewis a volleyball player at Central High. 

Wile brought the athletes as readers program to Central Unified 10 years ago…after reading about how young kids weren’t getting enough physical activity. She also wanted to improve literacy skills, using star athletes to spread the message was an added bonus.

“They weren’t aware that they have the ability to provide an example to these kids to these little ones that you can be a student athlete and you can also be a good student and you can go to bed on time and you can make healthy eating choices.”

The program has become so popular that the younger siblings of athletes who participated often follow in their footsteps.

K.V. Syal read when he was a student and his younger sister followed in his footsteps.  

When Central celebrated the programs 10th anniversary they both came back to participate. 

“Being with kids is fun no doubt but it’s like the impact your making,” stated former Central student K.V. Syal. 

As you can see it’s not just the young kids who benefit from this program many of the athletes gain a sense of awareness, understanding the impact they can have…not just on the field or court but in their community.

Librarian, Janet Wile, started the program in 2008 with seven football players. Now more than 100 athletes from every single sport participate.

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