Napa Valley Unified School District's Athletes as Readers and Leaders program began as a pilot in 2008. Several factors were in place and came together so conditions were just right for the idea -- call it serendipity.
  1. Napa Unified has a wellness policy that emphasizes nutrition and physical activity.
  2. District Librarian Kate MacMillan read a Stanford Study that pointed out that obese children who played after-school sports, lost weight. However there was an interesting caveat... often these children were too shy to join a team.
  3. Kate's son is a coach and part of the Napa High school family, so she has a good relationship with the staff. She mentioned the idea (of having high school football players reading to young children) to Troy Mott and he liked the concept. The rest is history.
In May 2008, Kate, Troy, and his football players went on their first visit. The following year, Rich Anderson's Vintage High Sports Leadership class joined the program and the two high schools managed at least eight elementary school site visits.

The California School Library Association (CSLA) first heard of Napa Valley's Athletes as Readers and Leaders program in 2008, thanks to updates from longtime CSLA member Kate MacMillan. As the pilot program grew, it became clear that it was a compelling model that could be easily replicated. It is an all-around winner for students young and old. Teacher Librarian Janet Melikian at Central High School in Fresno was the next to start an Athletes as Readers and Leaders program, and it was a great success. In fact a few of the Central High footballers who are attending junior college are implementing the program at the next level!

Benefits to the community:
  • Cost effective. This is home-grown, with local talent and eager audiences.
  • Focuses high school athletes on making a difference in their community.
  • Inspires young students to do well academically and take good care of their bodies.