UConn soccer team reads to kids

By Martha Marteney - Staff Writer
Bolton - posted Thu., Feb. 3, 2011
 Tony Cascio from the UConn soccer team reads to an avid audience. Photos by Martha Marteney.
Tony Cascio from the UConn soccer team reads to an avid audience. Photos by Martha Marteney.

BOLTON - The students at Bolton Center School were never more excited about reading than when members of the University of Connecticut men’s soccer team came to their school for a new reading program. Beginning on Jan. 28, the soccer players will visit the school on Fridays for the next couple of months to read to the students.
“The UConn Huskies are coming to read books to us,” said second-grader Phoebe. “It’s really something special.”
Second-grade students in Danielle Morissette’s class and fourth-grade students in Elisha Rose’s class regularly pair up as book buddies. Bolton Center School Principal Mary Grande approached teachers about pairing up the BCS students with members of the UConn soccer team. “It’s awesome,” said Rose. “The kids are so excited.”
“You always have to find new ways to make reading fun,” added Morissette. She noted that a lot of the children play soccer, and were very excited to meet the UConn athletes in person.
“It’s really exciting,” said fourth-grader Sierra, who was wearing a pink UConn t-shirt. “It’s just us and it’s the first time. I play soccer. It’s my favorite sport.”
The second- and fourth-graders paired up with their usual book buddies, and then met with one of the five soccer players. School librarian Luci Leone selected the books, which were all sports-themed and fit into the overall reading curriculum.
“It’s really cool that soccer stars want to read to us,” said fourth-grader Maya. “It’s pretty amazing that it’s just our class.”
UConn men’s soccer coach Ray Reid and Grande went to college together. They have been discussing the pilot reading program since September, but decided to wait until the team’s off-season before starting the program. Reid said the 15 athletes on the team will rotate, with five visiting the school each week. “It’s something we want to do for the community,” explained Reid, “and give the kids role models.”
The staff at Bolton Center School developed an outline for the soccer players to use in order to have an effective reading session. After introducing themselves and telling about their favorite books, the athletes read a section of the book, then ask questions to develop comprehension. Each reading session will last about 30 minutes.
Jonathan Goodridge is a UConn freshman from Syracuse, N.Y., studying mechanical engineering. He said to the children, “Reading is good. Reading gets you far.” At the end of the reading session, Goodridge said, “I loved it. They were all really excited about reading.”
“They’re fantastic,” said Grande about the UConn athletes. “They’re connecting so well with the students.” If this pilot program goes well, Grande hopes to expand the program to the rest of the second-and fourth-grade classes.
UConn freshman Chris O’Brien of Gilford, Conn. is studying business at UConn. “I liked it a lot,” he said about his first time reading to the Bolton students. “I like working with the kids and stressing the importance of reading. I feel that our reading to the kids is important because they look up to us.”

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