Thunder Duo Reads to Tinker Elementary

The momentum was building, the crowd was sitting at full attention and ready for what was next.

That description might apply to the Chesapeake Energy Arena crowd on Wednesday night for the Thunder’s game against the Denver Nuggets, but it was equally true on Tuesday afternoon at Tinker Elementary, where 80 second graders were excitedly awaiting the arrival of two Thunder players, Thabo Sefolosha and Perry Jones. When the guard and forward stepped through the door a cheer went up, which was just the beginning of a wonderful visit to the school.

“This is a lot of fun, coming out and being able to teach something good to those kids and hopefully leave a mark on them,” Sefolosha said. “It’s amazing how everybody in the community follows the team and knows who the Thunder is and really cheers for the Thunder.”

Sefolosha and Jones were at Tinker Elementary for the Thunder’s Reading Timeout, which is presented by American Fidelity Assurance Company as a part of the Read to Achieve program. The pair took turns reading the book “J is for Jumpshot: A Basketball Alphabet” by Michael Ulmer. As they read the book, the duo described each aspect of the game set forth in the book, helping the young Thunder fans learn more about basketball.

Despite coming home from a three-game road trip in the wee hours of Tuesday morning before playing just one game at home then heading out for a six-game road trip, Sefolosha and Jones wanted to spend time out in the Oklahoma City community.

“This was pretty cool today,” Jones said. “Overall I had a good time interacting with the kids, just seeing how happy they were. Thabo and I were trying to bring smiles to their faces. They love Thunder players… It shows that we still care and we’re still a part of the community and whenever we’re available, we’re here.”

After the players finished reading the book, they answered questions from the kids, led them in their reading pledge, took group photos with them and handed out Thunder gifts. The biggest lesson throughout the afternoon, particularly during the question and answer session, was to influence the children to take their education, reading and their health seriously. Roy Bishop of American Fidelity explained why it is so important for Thunder players to visit schools like Tinker and influence the kids.

“We want them to understand that no matter what they choose to do in life, whether it’s be an NBA basketball player or a classroom teacher, the most important thing is to be able to read,” Bishop said. “I want them to understand that when they know how to read, they can do anything that they want to do.”

Wendy Eaton, the principal at Tinker Elementary could tell that her students were extremely invested in the lessons they were being taught by the Thunder duo. The process has been building for quite some time, however, as the two second grade classes have been participating in their own Thunder Reading Challenge all year. Each student has been trying to read for 20 minutes each night, and the classes have built up 20,000 and 25,000 minutes of reading on the year. The reward for all their hard work was a visit for some positive reinforcement by Sefolosha and Jones.

“It was wonderful, they were so excited,” Eaton said. “They look up to them and they want to be them. When they tell them that reading is important to them and that gives them somebody to follow. It’s just somebody extremely special telling them to do something. It makes them buy into it that much more.”