DisruptED TV Magazine
Tackling Reading with the NFL
By Kathryn Starke
By the time I was five-years-old, I knew I wanted to be a teacher. I played school every afternoon after spending a full day as an elementary school student myself. I officially started my educational career fifteen years ago as a first and second grade teacher in an inner-city elementary school in Richmond, Virginia. I realized very quickly that most of the students in my class read significantly below grade level, which is not a problem unique to Richmond. Over 60% of nine-year-old children (80% of nine-year-old children in low income areas) around the country cannot read. I felt like I could make a bigger impact beyond just one classroom or school. Therefore, I started my educational business, Creative Minds Publications, LLC, to develop educational publications and presentations to motivate, support, and inspire children, teachers, families, and fellow educators to enjoy teaching and learning literacy.
I started out presenting in educational events around Virginia and Washington, DC, and had the honor of being a guest author for a reading day at FedEx Field hosted by the Washington Redskins Charitable Foundation. When the Washington Redskins moved their training camp to Richmond, the foundation contacted me to help create a summer reading program, in which the organization provided motivational prizes and incentives, including phone calls from athletes encouraging children to read daily for the three-month break. The K-5 students were so motivated and excited about reading, even the reluctant readers, whom are often young boys, it sparked the idea to write Tackle Reading, a book used in parent and teacher book clubs and professional development across the countries.
I knew there was more I could do with the title. Thanks to the support of the NFL, we are kicking off the third annual Tackle Reading day this March 1, 2019. This philanthropic day provides an opportunity for elementary schools around the country to receive the gift of reading from an NFL team or athlete in their community. The idea for Tackle Reading day came about through a conversation with fellow author, Michelle Staubach Grimes. Her dad, legendary quarterback, Roger Staubach, was one of our guest readers for the inaugural event. NFL athletes, alumni, coaches, and staff coast to coast visit a local elementary school to read to elementary school students for a day.
Some teams invite elementary schools to their stadiums or training facilities, and some athletes have added special treats to the day like eating lunch with the students. Books are donated to every team or professional athlete participating to give as a gift to the school on Tackle Reading day to add to their school library collection. Public education is always in need of extra funding and more valuable experiences for their students. Tackle Reading day uses sports, specifically football, to address the importance of literacy education. Since only 32 cities have an NFL presence, high school and college teams have joined our team and cause.
Last March, we celebrated the 2nd annual event in Philadelphia, the city of the Superbowl champions. After a morning assembly with guest authors, classroom reading visits from the athletes, a private lunch with the preschoolers and an athlete, and giveaways including baseball cards and footballs, the principal of the elementary school approached us in tears. He explained that in all of his years at the school, no one group of people had ever done so much for his students as teachers as we did that day. It’s because of the letters from schools and NFL teams, tears of joy from teachers and educational leaders, and excitement on the children’s faces that we continue to expand our reach.
In education, a school is only as great as their teachers and leadership. When I’m helping a challenge schools achieve literacy success, it only happens when every teacher in every grade is giving their all. I’ve had the great privilege of working with elementary schools across the country that understand this. Tackle Reading continues to grow, expand, and make an impact in our society because of the commitment of athletes, schools, cities, and business leaders, teachers, and so many people coming together to make a difference in literacy. Together, we can tackle reading across America!
About the Author: Kathryn Starke is a national urban literacy consultant, former elementary school teacher, author, and the founder of Creative Minds Publications, LLC, a global reading educational company. Starke is the creator of Tackle Reading, a book and educational campaign that promotes a love of literacy with a passion for football for readers of all ages. This March 1, 2019, kicks off the third annual Tackle Reading day supported by the NFL.