By Cathy Spaulding
Phoenix Staff Writer
Muskogee Roughers wide receivers James Buckhanan and Travis Jones were inundated with autograph-seekers at Tony Goetz Elementary.
And all they did was read “A Visitor for Bear” to second-graders in Jimmy Monroe’s class Friday afternoon.
Monroe said that very act will inspire his students to read.
“Now these kids will want to read that book,” Monroe said. “Some of the harder words, they’ll recognize just because they (the Roughers) read to them.”
Members of the Muskogee High School football team spent a couple of hours Friday reading to elementary students. Several of the players had attended Tony Goetz.
“We want to relay what it takes to be a champion on and off the field,” assistant coach Brian Hobbs said. Roughers offensive coach Jason Medrano said team members plan to visit each elementary school in the Muskogee district to read to and work with students.
“The kids just get excited when they come,” Medrano said. “I don’t know if it’s the jerseys or what. The kids are just in awe.”
Second-grader Jadyn Van Nortwick grinned after getting the Roughers’ autographs.
“I think it’s cool,” Jadyn said. “I get to see all the football players and all the people who win. I want to go to the football game and see who wins. I hope they all win.”
Monroe said the football players “serve as role models for my kids.”
It wasn’t just because they play football.
“It was awesome — me getting an autograph from a sophomore,” said second-grader Vernon Pepiakitah.
Wide receiver Bryson Bell got to read in front of his former teacher, Kathy Perchway.
“It just made me think of the old times, when I was that age,” Bryson said. “I hope they just stay on top of their grades.”
Perchway, who teaches second grade, said watching “role models” read encourages her students to read. She said she expects their reading skills to improve because of it.
“They want to emulate the football players, and they want to be just like them,” she said. “They see that the athletes love to read and that encourages them to read. The more they read, the better they read.”
Hobbs said girls get just as excited as the boys to see the football players.
The athletes read to students in younger grades.
“For the older kids, it’s up to the teacher,” Medrano said. “They may talk to the kids or they may do team-building activities.”
The elementary school visits are part of the team’s efforts to improve the community through the Roughers Aiding the District program, Medrano said.
“We go to churches and clean up,” he said. “Last year, we went to the VA and handed valentines to veterans.”
Reach Cathy Spaulding at (918) 684-2928 or firstname.lastname@example.org.