Harkless, Moore Help Preach Importance of Reading and Books

By Josh Cohen
February 11, 2014

WINTER PARK -- The Orlando Magic are on a mission to change some very disheartening statistics.

They include attempting to increase the number of children’s books low-income families have in their homes (currently stands at 61 percent) and multiply the number of words kids in those same living conditions hear on a daily basis through reading. By age four, children living in low-income homes have heard 32 million fewer words than children who read regularly and have access to books.

With help from Magic players Maurice Harkless and E’Twaun Moore, Community Ambassadors Nick Anderson and Bo Outlaw and representatives from Florida Blue and the Houghton Miffin & Harcourt Publishing Company, more kids in Central Florida are now more aware of the importance of reading and books.

As part of the Baskets for Books program, which has a purpose of developing lifelong learners through literacy and education, a “storytime” was held for 40 local youth on Tuesday, February 11 at the Florida Blue Center in Winter Park. Harkless, Moore and Florida Blue Chairman and CEO Patrick Geraghty joined together to read to the children and also handed out healthy snacks to preach the significance of staying fit through a balanced diet and exercise.

“Reading is pretty much the foundation of anything you do,” Harkless said. “It’s important for kids to enjoy reading at a young age. It’s fun to be part of something like this.”

“They (kids) see us on TV playing and look up to us so telling them that reading and their education is important hopefully will make them want to continue improving their reading skills,” Moore added.

This is the fourth straight season the Magic and Florida Blue have teamed up for this event. For every point made by the Magic at every home game one book is donated to the Early Learning Coalition of Orange County. Since program inception, more than 25,000 books have been donated (through February 2014) and more than 4,500 books were donated last season with the help of HMHCo.

“We want to do things in the community to help promote health, wellness and literacy,” Geraghty said. “The Magic are great partners. They create great energy, the kids are excited to see them. We are very committed to this activity and Baskets for Books.”

The Magic remain committed to helping children reach their full potential by investing resources in a variety of areas and it’s something that players like Harkless really appreciate and respect.

“The Magic do extremely well just getting involved in the community and I have a lot of fun with it,” Harkless said. “A few years ago we were the same kids who wanted to interact with the professional athletes in our towns so it’s humbling to put smiles on these kids faces.”