It’s no secret that the Indiana Fever players can’t play basketball forever.
This inevitable fact was brought up on Thursday, July 13, at the Lilly Boys & Girls Club in Indianapolis, where Fever guard/forward Marissa Coleman and center Natalie Achonwa read to children and spoke to them about the importance of reading and literacy.
The players discussed what they studied in college and explained their post-basketball career plans to the third graders in order to teach them that education and reading are important for everyone, even professional athletes.
“It doesn’t matter your profession, it doesn’t matter what you do,” said Achonwa. “Reading is still important in your daily life.”
This event was sponsored by the Indiana State Teachers Association (ISTA), who has partnered with the Fever to promote the Fever’s community-outreach program, Read Like a Pro, which is designed to combat illiteracy in the Indianapolis area.
On Wednesday, ISTA hosted another Read Like a Pro event at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Fever forward Erica McCall and guard Tiffany Mitchell read to a group of children after the Fever played the San Antonio Stars for their annual Kids Game.
“I think the biggest reason [Read Like a Pro] is important is to see that even their idols in the athletic world hold importance to education and literacy,” said Rob Rouse, unit director of the Lilly Boys & Girls Club.
“A lot of times, they think when you hit it big and you’re a star athlete that, that stuff doesn’t matter,” said Rouse. “I think it’s really important to see that it does matter.”
Read Like a Pro has helped children in the community engage and interact with their favorite Fever players in an educational and productive way.
“It’s really important for the kids to see the Indiana Fever players reading to them and the importance of reading expressed by the players,” said Fever Director of Community/Player Relations, Roberta Courtright.
The kids at the Boys & Girls Club were split into four small groups, and Coleman, Achonwa, and two members of ISTA read children books to them. The four readers rotated amongst the groups so that everyone had a chance to read with both Fever players.
The readers also had the children take turns reading out loud so they could practice their English and vocabulary.
At the end of the program, Coleman and Achonwa quizzed the kids on the books they read, and the winners received autographed photographs of them.
“When they see somebody in our position as professional athletes, we just want to let them know that even as basketball players, no matter what your profession or what you may be doing, reading is a fundamental part of everything you do,” said Coleman.
Part of the purpose of Read Like a Pro is to take away the stigma that reading is just for work or school. Coleman and Achonwa are hopeful that this program will encourage more children to read leisurely at home.
“Engaging in a fun activity like reading and making it fun for them, I hope they really see that it’s not just something that should be work or not something that they just do in school,” said Achonwa. “It’s something that they can enjoy and do in their free time and really use their imagination.”