slam dunk Revived APM School is Cool reading program
has UPEI Panther athletes becoming role model readers to elementary
school children to promote literacy and foster a love of the written
Some members of the UPEI Panthers menâ€™s and womenâ€™s basketball teams
have certainly been hitting the books of late, but itâ€™s not all to
do with their university studies.
Their voluntary reading list includes Grandpa Danâ€™s Toboggan Ride,
Puppies in the Snow and more childrenâ€™s favourites for their APM
School is Cool reading programâ€™s in-school campaign to promote
literacy to elementary school students.
To date, 10 athletes from both Panther teams have acted like pied
pipers of books, leading children toward an understanding that
reading is not only for learning, itâ€™s for fun.
“You know itâ€™s good when thereâ€™s applause at the end,” laughs Cindy
Fraser-Yazdani, educational assistant at L.M. Montgomery Elementary
School, as a group of Grade 1 students claps with glee at a
story-telling job well done by a trio of Panther volunteers.
CIS Academic All-Canadian student-athlete Shakir Chambers
co-ordinated the four-week literacy program, sponsored by APM, with
help from Bob Gray, assistant coach with the womenâ€™s UPEI team.
“I actually want to become a teacher so this is part of the reason I
did it,” says Chambers, who hails from Toronto, Ont.
“But one of the major reasons I did it was, I was in an education
class and a girl was saying . . . that (UPEI students) that come
from away donâ€™t really care about the P.E.I. community. I was kind
of shocked because I really care about (the community) no matter
where I am.”
And so Chambers recruited Panther volunteers and the readings began.
L.M. Montgomery Elementary was one of the last stops on their
four-week School is Cool reading program.
“They came a few weeks ago, I guess it was right after Christmas and
the kids just loved it. A few of them now have attended a basketball
game and a hockey game, so I think thatâ€™s pretty sweet,” says Grade
1 teacher Maureen Trautman.
“The kids can see that (reading) is cool and they can do well
academically as well as excel at sports, and thatâ€™s very important
for kids to see that they can do both.”
And itâ€™s not just straight reading time. The athletes tell their
stories about what they are studying, their career aspirations and
even what books they like now and what they liked when they were
“The kids are always like ‘oh, some of (the university courses) have
weird names, like biology.â€™ (The students ask) ‘Whatâ€™s biology?” and
so they talk about what biology is and things like that,” Trautman
In the next L.M. Montgomery class, children gather at the foot of
all four on todayâ€™s reading team, which includes Chambers, Jared
Budd of Riverdale, N.B., Todd Williams of Sackville, N.S., and
Cassie Goodwin of Charlottetown.
“Right now for one of my classes Iâ€™m reading about King Arthur. Do
you guys know who he is?” Goodwin asks the group of Grade 1 students
who responds enthusiastically to any and all of their questions.
“Theyâ€™re basically a little shy at first, but then they kind of open
up and want to tell us stories. And they ask us what we did
yesterday, like did we go sledding? Did we read a story yesterday?
So that was pretty cute that theyâ€™re interested in what we read now
as grownups,” says Goodwin.
“I think as athletes maybe we donâ€™t realize how special it is for
them to have an athlete or someone as a role model to come talk to
them and just tell them how important something is, such as reading
or just kind of staying on track. So I think this is something we
should do more of, really.”
Grade 1 teacher Julie Murchison says it is nice to see Goodwin and
the other role models demonstrating the message that they read in
their personal life.
“You still read for education, but we want to promote reading for
leisure and enjoyment because there are lots of kids here who love
to do that. But already there are some who find reading every day a
“So itâ€™s good to have these role models, and I was especially
excited to see Cassie here today to represent the womenâ€™sâ€™ team . .
It didnâ€™t take long for Williams to warm up to the reading ritual.
He dove into the story of Grandpa Danâ€™s Toboggan Ride with a funny
ferocity that was rewarded with a rousing round of laughter at the
toboggan crash finale.
“The first one I was kind of nervous, but the second one was really
fun,” he says of his first reading.
“I didnâ€™t get (the laughs) earlier today, but they really
appreciated that one.”
Budd, who also fell easily into the position of role model reader,
was glad for the opportunity to give back to the community in which
he is earning his education and playing his sport.
“Weâ€™re in a position where people kind of look up to us, so we need
to make the most out of the opportunities when we have them right
now. I see how important it is to know how to read. So it was just
something that I thought I should do. So here I am,” he says.
Seven-year-old Tristen Good of Charlottetown has never seen a
basketball game, except on TV, but he appreciated the Panthers
coming to his Grade 1 classroom.
“I like it a lot. They read lots of great stories.”
Seven-year-old Sydney Whitlock of Charlottetown has watched some of
the Panther games with her parents so she was familiar with some of
the players and is a fan of Chambers.
“This is the second time Shakir has read to us,” she says with a
Even at her young age, she appreciates the underlying message the
athletes are trying to convey.
“Like you should read a lot and you might learn stuff. And you have
to learn to play sports.”
Although the four-week program has come to an end, Chambers hopes it
will continue in some form.
“I would love to keep it going (in full force), but a lot of the
volunteers have midterms, they have essays, so we canâ€™t really keep
it going as much as we are right now. But hopefully we can keep it
going in some capacity throughout the year.”
Chambers admits he had no idea that the response from the elementary
students would be as strong as it has.
“Itâ€™s just so crazy for me just to see the kids look up to us so
much. I never expected that,” he says.
“When we read to them, they have smiles on their faces, they ask us
for autographs. Thereâ€™s no feeling like that. I really appreciate
This is the top 5 list from the women's basketball team:
1) The Balloon Tree, by Phoebe Gilman 2) Just Go To Bed, by Mercer Mayer 3) Love You Forever, by Robert Munsch (and all Robert Munsch books) 4) If You Give A Mouse A Cookie, by Laura Joffe Numeroff 5) The Lorax, by Dr. Suess (and all Dr. Suess books)
As for the men's basketball team, our top 5 children's books are as
1) Green Eggs & Ham, by Dr. Suess 2) Any book for the "Goosebumps" collection, all by R.L. Stine 3) Curious George, by Hans Augusto Rey 4) Are You My Mother? by P. D. Eastman 5) Thomas' Snowsuit, by Robert Munsch