This week we attended the kickoff party for summer reading at our local library. Yes, I will tell you about that in another post, but I wanted to discuss something that happened in this one. Players from a local arena football team (LAW) came to the party. They drew with sidewalk chalk with the kids and they read during three separate story hours that were hosted throughout the morning of the kickoff.
After the story, kids were allowed to ask a few questions. The story read while we were there was about super heroes, like Batman and Superman, so the questions coming from the little ones were less questions and more comments. For example: “Batman is a super hero.” “Ironman is my favorite hero.” “Superheros have powers”. The players handled these comments really well, and finally one of the older kids asked, “What are your favorite books?” A great question, and a relief to the librarian who was trying to decide when to stop the comment-fest that had preceded it.
You can correct me if I’m wrong, but I think there is often a stereotype attached to people who pursue a career in sports past high school, and maybe even for those in high school, that they really aren’t readers. I’m not saying I hold this stereotype, but I think it exists. I know those who fit the stereotype, guys and gals, that are super into sports and haven’t picked up a book for leisure since grade school. I also know people who are all about sports, and still love to read (my husband is one). I had an 8th grade class when I was teaching that had an inordinately high percentage of boys that fell straight into this stereotype. It was like pulling teeth to get some of them to read. However, this tends to be a struggle for many boys that age, sports or no.
Anyway, I don’t know if these football players still read or not, but I loved the answers they gave to this question. One of them said he really didn’t like to read fiction. He really like biographies, books about history, and books about things that really happened. His favorite book was a biography about a baseball player who had a lot of struggles in his life (I’m sorry, I don’t remember the player’s name). Another player said his favorite books was one that a coach of his gave him, Friday Night Lights. He made the point that this was a book before it was a movie and TV show. Jurassic Park was the favorite book of the last player. He said he was assigned to read it for a class in college and was surprised by how much he liked it. He recommended they all read it…when they are older.
Such diverse answers were great for the kids to hear I think. It was good for them to hear about books and reading preferences from men that they look up to and have seen on the field at games. Whether these players are readers now or not, they did a good job of supporting and advocating literacy to the children. As a parent I appreciated it, and I was proud of them too, for stepping up in such a great way. It is great to connect sports and literacy, especially for boys.
Now, it isn’t a stereotype that boys struggle more than girls with reading. This is a fact that is supported by research, although there are plenty of exceptions to the rule. Is this perhaps where the stereotype of athletes not really being readers started? What do you think? Is there a stereotype and why do you think it exists? Is it changing, or getting worse?