Major League Soccer (MLS) and the National Education Association (NEA) launched a new literacy program that taps into the excitement of professional soccer and the star power of many of the league's top players to give reading a major kick.
Get a Kick Out of Reading is a comprehensive multicultural league-wide literacy program that aims to raise awareness about the critical importance of reading to children and their families, including the growing number of youth who are new to America and have limited English skills.
"Reading is a fundamental skill not only for professional success, but for personal fulfillment as well," MLS Commissioner Don Garber said. "MLS is proud to involve all of our 10 teams and many of our top players in this important mission headed by the NEA, ensuring that every child and every family in our nation fully understands the vital importance of developing proficient reading skills."
The goal of the joint initiative is to create a bilingual, multicultural program that educates not only children, but also families, on the importance of reading. MLS, NEA and a roster of supporting organizations will work together to integrate the sport of soccer into activities that help to change attitudes about reading and deliver positive messages about its fun and its value.
This program invites children in kindergarten through sixth grade to read over the summer. All they have to do is read for fun 90 minutes a week for six weeks. They must either read on their own or be read to, but the reading can't be for homework. While they are reading, they keep track of their progress on a scorecard. Once they completed their 90 minutes a week for six weeks, they receive a reader's certificate.
Library Director Katherine Steffens said that the youngsters who successfully meet the challenges outlined by the organization will also be rewarded with one free ticket to the Aug. 13 Metro Stars game against Kansas City at Giants Stadium. That day has been designated as Read Team Day.
"To complete the challenge, the children must read [or be read to] at least 90 minutes a week," said Cecilia Mucciolo, supervisor of children's services at the library. "Youngsters will receive official scorecards to record when they read or were read to. When the challenge is completed, the youngsters' completed scorecards that are returned to the library will be sent to the Metro Starts, which will issue Reader's Certificates and the game ticket."
As an added incentive to encourage these children to read, Mucciolo said, the library plans to place a soccer ball in a net every time a set number of books is read.
"The accumulated soccer balls will then be raffled at the Friends of the Library Mini Fair and Book Sale on Sept. 20," she said.
"Reading has always been one of my favorite activities," said MetroStars forward Jaime Moreno. "When I was a kid, my grandmother used to read to me constantly. My favorite book as a child was 'The Adventures of Tarzan.' Books were fun then and are still fun now."
Steffens and Mucciolo urge children and their parents to visit the library, get their books, and begin their reading. The scorecards must be competed and returned by the end of July so that tickets to the Aug. 13 game can be distributed. For more information, call the library at (201) 330-2083.