Former Jets safety Erik Coleman, who spent nine seasons in the NFL tackling receivers, spent Friday helping kids tackle reading.
Coleman joined dozens of teachers and parents, and Hempstead Town Supervisor Laura Gillen, in “Read Across America Day” at Front Street Elementary School in Hempstead.
Children all around the country observe the day, which aims to motivate them to learn to read — and appreciate reading — at a young age. Studies have shown the earlier students develop strong reading habits, the better they fare in academic endeavors throughout their lives.
Coleman said he advocates going back to schools and communities and acting as a positive mentor for children.
“I think it’s great what Read Across America is doing for the kids, putting an emphasis on the importance of reading, making it fun and starting these kids off right,” he said.
Coleman, a father of three, said he still reads to his 3-year-old, and that his two older children, 6 and 9, often read to him now.
Read Across America Day is celebrated on the same day as beloved children’s book author Dr. Seuss’s birthday and sponsored by the National Education Association. The teachers and families of Hempstead students also participated in the effort by taking “Shelfies,” a selfie of them with their favorite book.
Coleman and Gillen read Michael Frith’s “I’ll Teach My Dog 100 Words” to teacher Lydia Williams’ fifth grade class. The book is part of the Dr. Seuss & His Friends book club for early readers.
While the narrator in “I’ll Teach My Dog 100 Words” procrastinates — ending the tale with: “I’ll teach my dog next year” — the children did not. They were active listeners for 50 stories read by volunteers throughout the day.
Williams said having successful people from different backgrounds stress the importance of reading can be very helpful to the children. “To have people like football players and other people from other industries come and talk about the importance of reading, and take the time to show them — it means the world,” Williams said. “I know it’ll have a great impact on them.”
Gwen Jackson, the vice president of the Hempstead school board, said daily reading is fundamental to children, and that it can empower them. “If you can read, you can pretty much do anything,” she said.