U.S. athletes promote reading for young students

Young people often emulate their favorite athletes.

Many U.S. professional sports teams hope they can use this fact to inspire kids to read. Instead of holding a ball, many prominent athletes meet with young students to read books.

Man in Washington Nationals uniform holding book and smiling at the camera (Courtesy of Washington Nationals)
Washington Nationals relief pitcher Sean Doolittle supports the team’s reading program. (Courtesy of Washington Nationals)

The Washington Nationals baseball team sponsors the Summer Reading Sundays program before scheduled home games. Players such as pitcher Sean Doolittle read to children before the games start.

The Nationals adopted a slogan, “The team that reads.”

“We all know that summers are great for coming out to the ballpark, but it’s also a great time to get lost in a good book,” Doolittle said.

Ryan Yarbrough, a pitcher with the Tampa Bay Rays baseball team, remembers reading books with his mother and magazines with his father when he was a child. Now he has a family of his own.

“There was a time when I was growing up when my parents, especially my mom, would read a book chapter by chapter every night before bed,” he told the Tampa Free Press. “Now, with my daughter, we read to her every night.”

Yarbrough is an active participant in the team’s “Reading with the Rays” program where players meet in person with young students.

Man wearing football jersey that reads "Exercise Your Mind. Read/Reed 83" and holding football in the other hand (Courtesy Read with Reed 83)
Andre Reed (Courtesy Read with Reed 83)

Back in 2010, retired professional football player Andre Reed (Buffalo Bills, 1985–1999) started a foundation that encourages children to devote at least 30 minutes each day to reading.

“I love telling kids how important [reading] is because knowledge is power and we can’t do what we do without having an education,” Reed said.

In Arizona, the three-time Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) Champion Phoenix Mercury this year awarded four tickets to a home game for those participating in the Maricopa County Reads Summer Reading Program.

Team mascots cheer on readers

In Houston, the men’s and women’s professional soccer teams — Houston Dynamo FC and the Houston Dash — and their mascot, Diesel, teamed up to award every student reading five books this October with a free ticket to a home game. The top three schools with the most books read will win these prizes:

  • A behind-the-scenes tour of the stadium where the teams play and a pizza party for up to 50 students.
  • A school assembly with Diesel.
  • A personalized jersey with the name of the school on the back.
Person in blue horse costume raising hand, athlete holding microphone and woman holding book in front of group of kids in library (Courtesy of Dallas Mavericks)
Dwight Powell of the Dallas Mavericks basketball and Champ, the team’s mascot, read to children at a Fort Worth, Texas, library in March 2019. (Courtesy of Dallas Mavericks)

The NBA’s Dallas Mavericks “Reading Challenge” program rewards students who read for 20 minutes each day for a 40-day period. The team’s mascot visits the classroom of the student who reads the most.

The NBA’s Minnesota Timberwolves men’s basketball team last year sponsored a “Read to Achieve” program that awarded prizes to students who read for 500 minutes in November and December.

“Reading has always been an important part of my life, and I hope it can become a big part of your life, too,” Timberwolves star Karl-Anthony Towns said in one of the team’s weekly video messages. “So, let’s get reading.”