Step 1: Implementation

Two of America's top economic issues that schools can help solve include childhood obesity and low literacy. A Stanford Study on childhood obesity found that obese children who played sports tended to lose weight, and as they lost weight their self-esteem increased. Another way to increase self-esteem and literacy is to introduce student athletes as readers. Thus, the Athletes as Readers and Leaders program.

When high school student athletes visit classrooms of younger students, their goal is to read a story and to give a key message: Read ... Physical Activity... Leadership... Wellness ... Good Nutrition ! What happens is more than an attentive audience of adoring young faces. ...Big, tough team readers become leaders and role models.

As you can see, there are lots of winners: high school athletes, young students, the community, and yourself. It is rewarding all-around.

STEP #1: Talk to a coach or the athletic director about implementing this program. We recommend talking to an on-site and/or teacher coach as they have more access to the players. Form a board including the librarian, coach, and an elementary principal. Show the two minute embedded video to highlight the program.
Do not attempt to implement this program during the athletic season (the coach will not
appreciate it...)

Pick a coach and a sport that you feel will be successful. Word of mouth and publicity will
bring other coaches and sports into the program.

Since the program emphasises student academics and literacy, involving student athletes
makes the message even stronger!

Athletes as Readers and Leaders: Central High School Model

Central High School in Fresno altered the program a bit to meet the needs of their district. Every Friday afternoon Janet Melikian takes a group of athletes (football, soccer, tennis, volleyball, wrestling) to one of their local elementary schools. The athletes visit classrooms in groups of 2-3 to read a sports story book to the children. The athletes then lead the students in a discussion about the importance of being physically active and healthy eating.

In the programs’ first year over 1000 elementary students were read to by athletes and the response from all the students was terrific. The high school athletes enjoyed the program so much that three of the footballers attending Reedley College in the fall of 2009 asked to implement the program there as well. Janet contacted the director of library services in Reedley along with the football coach for the junior college. These college athletes will not only continue reading, now to 4-6 grades, but they will also train the high school athletes at Reedley High School to read to the younger kids, grades K-3. It is the athletes themselves who are taking it to the next level.