Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Rams Celebrate Dr. Seuss by Reading to Students

March 6, 2013

By Evan Glantz

There was one Ram; there were two Rams. There were old fans; there were new fans. And all helped celebrate the birthday of Dr. Seuss by participating in the National Education Association’s Read Across America Day.

On Friday, quarterback Austin Davis and tight end Lance Kendricks visited Lyon Academy at Blow and Twillman Elementary School respectively to read Dr. Seuss books to students. The nation-wide program not only honors the great children’s author, but is also the largest reading celebration in the country. Its goal is to help highlight the importance of developing a love for reading at an early age. But it is not a one-sided experience.

“It’s enjoyable for me. I get a lot out of it,” Davis said. “I get to see (the students’) joy and their innocence and all those things that as you get older, you kind of forget about.”

Sporting a red-and-white-striped top hat, Davis channeled his inner Cat in the Hat as he took center stage at a school assembly. There he shared with them,Oh, the Places You’ll Go!, a book whose message of continuous learning and exploration through life was particularly applicable to the students of Lyon Academy at Blow.

“I’m happy the students were able to look up to him as a role model,” Dr. Ingrid Iskali, Lyon Academy at Blow principal, said. “It was important they understand that, yes, Austin is a quarterback for the St. Louis Rams, but he still studies and learns every day like our students here. It was a great experience for the kids to learn that you always have to work hard if you want to achieve your dreams.”

The Dr. Seuss Birthday Celebration was an extension of the GO! St. Louis Read, Right & Run Marathon program, an initiative with which Lyon Academy at Blow got involved last year. The Read, Right & Run program is designed to develop reading-proficient, community-minded and physically fit children. As part of the initiative, kids “read” 26 books, “right” the community with 26 good deeds and “run” 26.2 miles over a six-month period. Iskali said that every teacher at Lyon Academy at Blow has embraced the initiative and has made it a regular part of the school day.

“It has been very successful for our children because they understand the importance of training their bodies as well as their minds,” Iskali said.

By participating in the Read, Right, & Run program, Iskali said the school has seen an increase in reading among the students because of their desire to take part in the exercise activities. For each of the 26 books students read, they must write a summary and meet with their teacher to discuss what lessons or themes are offered. In order to encourage the reading effort and participation, Lyon Academy at Blow has incorporated a 20 minute silent reading period during the school day.

“(The silent reading period) has become a part of our teachers’ lesson plans and part of the daily routine as well,” Iskali said. “Every classroom has theirs scheduled at a different time. It gives the teacher time to interact with the students and it is embedded in their schedules.”

Even with the progress that has been made during their year-long participation in the program, Iskali and her faculty know there is still work to be done. The Read, Right, & Run initiative is a project with the goal of keeping kids’ minds and bodies active long-term.

“We’re hoping the children become lifelong readers and that they keep in mind the exercise routines,” Iskali said. “As we get older, we forget about exercising. But it’s very important for them to establish the good habits now while they’re young and continue as they grow.”

Davis recognized the opportunity he had to contribute to the effort.

“As a professional athlete, we’ve been blessed with a huge platform and the ability to influence others,” Davis said. “I think it’s very important how you use that influence. No matter what you’re doing, people are watching and kids are looking up to you, whether you want them to or not. So it’s important to do your best to steer these kids in the right direction.”

At Twillman Elementary School, Kendricks had his opportunity to positively influence students. He visited two classrooms, where he read The Sneetchesto third graders and The Lorax to fifth grade students. Following each story, Kendricks took time to discuss the theme with the kids, making sure they understood the lessons offered by the book.

Kendricks’ visit was arranged by Amanda Ehll, a library media specialist at Twillman. She sent in a request to the Rams in September as she began planning for Read Across America. Throughout the entire day, various professionals visited the school to read Dr. Seuss book to the kids.

“The program is done to encourage a love of reading,” Ehll said. “I want the students to see positive role models here and know that they can achieve by reading.”
Kendricks, who lists Charlie and the Chocolate Factory as his favorite book, was happy to enhance the program.

“I didn’t expect the kids to be so rowdy and ready for me to read them a book,” Kendricks said. “But I had a lot of fun doing it and the kids were great. They asked some good questions and understood the actual meaning behind the books, which was most important.”

In addition to sharing his love of reading with the kids, Kendricks was able to answer many of their questions, which ranged from his success in the classroom to his success on the gridiron.

“I hope they look at this as an opportunity to be more mindful of paying attention in class and taking school seriously because it will take them along further in life.”

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