Thabeet’s Reading an Example for Kids

If the students at Stanley Hupfeld Academy needed a perfect example of why reading is so important, they got it front and center on Thursday afternoon.

Thunder big men Nick Collison and Hasheem Thabeet visited the school on the Rolling Thunder Book Bus, presented by American Fidelity Assurance Company with big smiles and life lessons in tow. As each of the elementary school children entered the bus, they were greeted with a plethora of books to choose from, in addition to two NBA players inspiring them to read.

“It’s fun for us to come out and do the Book Bus,” Collison said. “I think particularly with these and the Read to Achieves, we’re trying to encourage kids to read on their own. I think it’s a skill for young kids if they can pick up and be really good at a young age, it helps them to learn throughout school. Middle school, high school, it’s a fundamental of learning. So I think it’s a good start for a lot of these kids.”

As the students sifted through books like the famous Animorphs series, Collison and Thabeet asked them questions about themselves and tried to convince them to start reading their book that night. Many of the students became quite engaged in the conversation with the duo, and one student, Harmony, even flipped the script and started to interview Collison about his life and playing in the NBA. The impact that Collison and Thabeet had on the students and the school was incredible, according to Principal Ruthie Rayner.

“Many of them are great Thunder fans, so they (Collison and Thabeet) are such positive role models for our students,” Rayner said. “The ability to find a book that they really love encourages them to read more and so with this we hope that they will just continue and it will open a door for them to read in the future.”

When Rayner said Collison and Thabeet were role models, she wasn’t exaggerating. The 7-foot-3 Thabeet, a native of Tanzania in eastern Africa, is the first person from his country to ever play in the NBA. It was a long journey for Thabeet to begin his life in Africa, move to the United States for high school and college, then begin his NBA journey. Despite major obstacles, Thabeet used the skill he encouraged the Stanley Hupfeld students to use in order to learn English.

“Through reading I was able to learn English,” Thabeet said. “Where I’m from, it was a British colony, but the main language over there is Swahili. For me to understand English and learn English, I had to read books.”

The Stanley Hupfeld students already seem enthusiastic about learning to read and write English quickly and fluently as possible, highlighted by 44 of the children who read more than required in the school’s recent Tour of the Islands reading challenge. Regardless, Thabeet uses his time on the Book Bus to encourage even more dedication to reading, and ensure that the hard work students have put in already doesn’t become forgotten.

“To motivate them,” Thabeet said. “At least you get to talk to them and tell them the importance of reading. I’m a great example myself, I learned English through reading books… Through reading you can accomplish a lot, especially in the US.”

It would be easy to preach the importance of reading and not practice it, but even as a fluent English speaker, Thabeet continues to be a heavy reader. From learning about different religions and faiths to the book currently on his nightstand, Long Walk to Freedom- the autobiography of Nelson Mandela, Thabeet tries to experiment with different types of books and expand his knowledge of the world, in addition to his English vocabulary.

“Anything I get interested in, I go out there and read it,” Thabeet said. “I’m pretty open to all kind of things… I go and read any kind of books that are out there. You’re never too old to learn something.”