About two dozen Schalmont High School cheerleaders, soccer players and football players brought their enthusiasm from the field to the classroom last week as part of a district-wide initiative to promote reading.
Football players Dalton Cooke and Marcus Ramundo were reading to students at Jefferson Elementary School selections from “Falling Up,” a collection of poems by Shel Silverstein. One poem depicted a man trying to shoot an arrow off someone’s head, much like William Tell.
“Take your arrow, grip it well. There’s the apple, aim for the middle. Oh well, you just missed by a little,” Cooke read, showing the picture of a worried man who narrowly escaped the arrow.
Students clamored for more of the humorous poems. Cooke, a sophomore, said he enjoyed the chance to interact with the younger students.
“I’m out here trying to teach these kids about maybe things they haven’t learned yet, different types of literature,” he said.
He said it is also an opportunity for athletes to get younger students interested in joining athletic teams when they get older.
“Show that football players are just as cool as any of their friends,” he said.
About 100 students attended the Nov. 14 event at Jefferson, which was part of Schalmont’s district-wide reading initiative called “Let’s Get Started! (Schalmont Talking and Reading Together Every Day).” The event was spearheaded by middle school English teacher Elisa Pepe and fourth-grade teacher Jessica Melchoir. Pepe said they were trying to find a way to reach struggling readers.
“We just thought, ‘Let’s try to get a little excitement in the district about reading,’ ” she said.
Pepe said studies have shown that regular reading to children improves their comprehension. The teachers want to impress upon students that reading is a lifelong skill. “You get better at it when you read more,” she said.
While students were being read to, parents were in another room learning about the new Common Core standards from the state and how to help their children at home with reading.
“One of our goals would be to get some good books in children’s hands and teach the parents how to read with their children, how to use certain strategies,” Melchoir said.
Teachers also decorated the doors of their classrooms to depict scenes from novels.
In another classroom, Schalmont High School soccer player Amanda Mascitelli and cheerleader Rosa D’Ambrosio read “You Are Special” by Max Lucado. The story is about a wooden creature that is worried that he is flawed, but his creator convinces him that he is valuable.
“This was my favorite book when I was little, so when I found it, I wanted to read it to you,” D’Ambrosio said.
Mascitelli said it was a good way to get the children involved in reading. “You use it all grade levels. You build up a good foundation,” she said.
Adriana DiCocco, 8, said she liked the story the girls read, especially how the main character gained confidence about his appearance.
“It didn’t matter what the other wooden things think of you,” she said.
Aidan Tidings, 7, loves reading but had trouble picking a favorite book.
“I don’t really remember my favorite book. I have tons,” he said.