Some of the sporting world’s big names—Joe Theismann, former Dodger’s baseman Tyger Pederson and Valencia’s own Vareen brothers—appeared in a video for Bridgeport Elementary Schools students Friday to encourage them to become reading enthusiasts.
When Camryn Arnold, a 5th grade teacher at Bridgeport Elementary School, began planning Read Across America Day, she wanted to do something different that would inspire her students to read each and every day.
After reading an article about how children look up to athletes as role models, she decided to involve Valencia High School, collegiate and professional athletes in the day’s activities.
“Every time I ask my kids who they look up to, they always say athletes,” Arnold said. “But those athletes were students first.”
With help from her husband, Valencia High School Football coach Brian Arnold, Camryn Arnold invited 70 high-achieving high school athletes to the school to read Dr. Seuss books to students in transitional kindergarten to sixth grade.
“It was fun,” said fifth grade student Vedant Khadiya, 11, who loves math and plays soccer and tennis. “We got to learn a lot about the students.”
Valencia High School juniors Connor Downs, a football player, and Jarren Carr, a football and lacrosse player, were just as excited as Bridgeport students to participate in the day’s activities.
“We’re having a blast today,” Downs said. “They [the students] asked us what college we want to go to, where we see ourselves in five years, what we want to major in.”
Carr said he had fun talking to sixth graders about his sport, lacrosse, and encouraging them to stay involved in school and athletics.
“I love how excited they are,” he said. “I honestly didn’t think any kids were playing lacrosse at their age so that was exciting to see them and hear about it.”
Arnold said the school celebrated Read Across America Day a day late, on Friday, so the students could be in the classrooms and inspiring students to read.
“These are celebrities to them,” she said. “These are who they go to see play games and who they look up to.”
Bridgeport students also took part in an assembly where cheerleaders from UCLA and Joe Bruin, UCLA’s mascot, taught them the “Go Bruins” cheer and the “8 Clap” cheer.
Students also watched a video of professional and collegiate athletes sharing personal messages about the importance of reading, where reading has taken them and their favorite books.
“Reading is very important. You can’t get through life without an education and without reading,” said former professional football player Joe Theismann, who was a quarterback for the Washington Redskins. “I read every book I can… reading is very important to keep you ahead in life.”
Professional golfer Jason Gore shared with the students that his favorite Dr. Seuss book is “Oh, The Places You’ll Go!”
“I would have never gone all those places without my college education and reading,” he said.
Professional football player Brock Vereen, who played for the Chicago Bears, Minnesota Vikings, New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs, encouraged the students to do well in school while they pursue a career in athletics.
“You’re only allowed to participate in college sports if you have good grades,” he said.
Additional cameos from professional athletes included New York Giants running back Shane Vereen, Team USA Softball outfielder Nicole Giordano, former Los Angeles Dodgers baseman Tyger Pederson and former UCLA softball player and Hall of Fame coach Sue Enquist.
On Twitter as @_ChristinaCox_