The Jacksonville Jaguars have started a new initiative to visit local area Duval County Public Schools and have players read short stories in the classrooms with students. The players are interested in building relationships with local schools and showing children the importance of reading.
"I didn't get this far in my life without getting help along the way," linebacker Daryl Smith said. "I needed some help and encouragement and that's what I'm trying to do for these kids today."
"I got a couple questions today, like what was my favorite book? I told them mine was Curious George. At the end of the session a couple of children came running up to me with Curious George books in their hand saying they were going to check the books out in the library and go home and read them. I think by us coming out today it will encourage more children to read."
The players have talked to the children about how much reading is required in football. Even though they spend a great deal of time on the field, the players spend even more time in the classroom preparing for the opponent, and reading is a big part of that preparation.
"I still do a lot of reading every day," cornerback Brian Williams said. "I want these kids to know how important reading is in life."
The U.S. Department of Education says the single most important activity for parents in building the knowledge required for success in reading is reading aloud to children. The Jaguars are hoping to make an impact even further by providing opportunities for their players to make weekly visits to schools. They have focused on reaching schools in all parts of Jacksonville and sharing the importance of reading.
"It feels good to see these children in here laughing and smiling about the books we are reading them," Williams said. "It kind of touches you."