PROVIDENCE, RHODE ISLAND – Monday, April 8th marked the start of Reading Week in the Providence Public School system, and for the first time Brown University’s Athletic Department participated in the local community’s effort to join the nationwide initiative that seeks to get children more interested in reading.
“Brown Athletics is committed to the success of the
Providence community,” said Jack Hayes, Brown’s
Director of Athletics, “and over the years, our
student-athletes have played an important role in complementing the
educational efforts of the city’s school system. We have had
a long-standing partnership with Vartan Gregorian Elementary
School, but the Reading Week project is a new effort that
allows us to interact with children and teachers in other
schools throughout Providence. Brown student-athletes and
coaches enjoy reaching out as role models to the school children
and trying to influence their lives in a positive manner."
Over 100 student-athletes volunteered their time at various elementary schools over the course of the weeklong event, and ten coaches spent Wednesday morning reading at Vartan Gregorian Elementary School. Before heading to their different classrooms, the coaches paraded through the school’s hallways with their fifth-grade guides and Bruno, the school’s mascot, to rousing applause from the children lining their route.
“It was a great experience to get off of College Hill and spend time in the community,” said senior Kasey Haas, a gymnast and one of the student organizers of the event. “Many student-athletes volunteer at Fox Point on a weekly basis, but being able to get out into the community and connect with kids from different areas in Providence was great. It's always fun to talk to kids about college and doing a sport. They are all so curious and excited about everything that we do. I think that being a college student allows the kids to relate to us, and by showing our interest and excitement in reading it hopefully encourages them to read more as well.”
Haas read Chris Van Allsburg’s Just a Dream to a third grade classroom at George J. West Elementary School, a book that she picked because of the main character’s discovery of the importance of environmentalism through the power of his own dreams.
“I was really impressed with
the energy that our student-athletes showed for Reading
Week,” said Sarah Fraser, an Associate Athletic Director at
Brown and one of the coordinators of the event. “We had to
keep adding visits to schools on additional dates and times
to accommodate everyone who wanted to take part. Brown
students are great role models for the school children because of
what they have achieved to get themselves to Brown. Reading Week
was an opportunity for our student-athletes to reach out to local
young people in another way, and they seized it with
In addition to Vartan Gregorian and George J. West, the coaches and student-athletes visited several other local schools, including Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary, Lauro Elementary and Paul Cuffee Elementary. During the week of April 22nd, the student-athletes will make visits to Asa Messer Elementary and Leviton Dual Language School, as part of an extension of Reading Week. Those that read at Leviton will engage with the students in a different way, reading books to the children in Spanish.
Head men’s basketball coach Mike Martin read Salt in His Shoes, a book written by Michael Jordan’s mother and sister, to a first grade classroom at Vartan Gregorian on Wednesday and, just a day later, two of his players read the same tale of inspiration, hope and making dreams come true to first graders at Paul Cuffee School.
"We all realize that the game of basketball has afforded us great opportunities,” said Martin. “Any time we are able to use basketball to give back to the community, we think it is very rewarding not only for those involved in the community but also our student-athletes and staff. Rafael and Cedric really enjoyed their time with the people at the Paul Cuffee School and we look forward to many more opportunities in the future."
Ruth Doran welcomed freshman Cedric Kuakumensah and sophomore Rafael Maia into her classroom at Paul Cuffee with the hope that her students would view the student-athletes as older brothers.
“Our classroom is truly like a big family,” said Doran. “Having Cedric and Rafael visit felt like two very big brothers stopping by. They acted like the big brothers that every child should have...someone who laughs, dances, talks about everything, listens and reads to you. It wasn't just a visit from two Brown basketball players, it was a visit from two people who showed my students their own possibilities.”