The excitement was palpable inside of the gym at Birdwell Elementary on Friday as about 40 fifth-grade students gathered around some Robert E. Lee High School football players to hear them read a book.
“It’s good for both the little kids and the high school students. The little kids love it — they worship them — and it helps the older students to see that they are role models,” he said.
Piske said the team goes out to the schools on weeks when they have home games because they have to leave early to travel on the weeks when they play on the road.
Phat Phan, 16, and a junior, said he liked reading to the elementary students and showing them “a good time.” On Friday, Phan held the book to show the students the pictures.
“I like showing them how it is out here in the real world,” he said.
Tristan Richards, 16 and a junior, said he liked to help inspire the younger students.
“When I went to Andy Woods Elementary, the football players would come and read to us, and I loved it,” he said.
And Manuel Spangler, 17, also a junior, said he likes the way the younger students look up to the players.
“We get to show them what it’s like to be a football player,” he said.
“I think it’s awesome,” he said of the reading program.
Birdwell teachers and administrators alike praised the program because it stresses literacy and allows the younger students to see the older students read. “They look up to these guys as mentors. I can tell them all day long about the importance, but seeing an older student read really drives it home,” Kena McClenny, a fifth-grade teacher at Birdwell, said.
Principal Donna Bundy spoke excitedly about the program on Friday.
“It’s very exciting and so good for these kids starting to read. It means a lot — it’s very personal and very personable for them to do that with them,” she said.