Read to Achieve Kicks Off in Washington

Jared Jeffries joined the children of The Boys and Girls Club of Silver Spring (MD) for an afternoon to discuss the importance of literacy.
Mitchell Layton/NBAE/Getty Images
The Washington Wizards kicked off their 2002-03 Read to Achieve campaign Monday with a visit to The Boys and Girls Club of Silver Spring (MD). More than 75 children participated in the day's activities which concluded with the Read to Achieve oath that asks them to focus on reading and learning.

"We worked on building the Washington Wizards website in the computer room, then we went to the book room and restacked the book shelves. Next it was to the arts and crafts room to make some Halloween pumpkins and then I read a book to the kids, which I feel was the most important part of this whole thing," said Wizards center Jahidi White.

White was joined by fellow teammates Jerry Stackhouse, Brendan Haywood, Jared Jeffries, Wizards assistant strength and conditioning coach Debi Hughes, and Washington Mystics guard Stacey Dales-Schuman. All expressed their excitement in being a part of the program to help encourage youngsters to continue reading and learning, and to strive to be successful in life.

"This is a good chance to come out, meet kids in the community and just have a chance to be around people that are going to make a difference [in society] someday," Jeffries said.

"I think these events are great just to spread the importance of reading," said Dales-Schuman. "They are all real excited about it and eager to learn, and I think we are good role models for them, being NBA and WNBA representatives."

For two of the players, spreading the importance of reading at a Boys and Girls Club brought back some memories of their own childhood.

"I was brought up in a Boys Club and I know the importance of having role models and having people come and give some of their time," said Stackhouse. "These are the kids of tomorrow and by us coming and reading to them and stressing [the importance of] reading, hopefully it will give them more of an imagination and more hope for the future."

"I remember going to hang out at the Boys and Girls Clubs, the YMCA and things like that, so it's great to be able to give back to the community and spend some time with these kids," said Haywood.

While the day was mostly focused on reading being fun, some of the players added their own competitive twist to the program's activities.

"I think my kid's [paper] pumpkins were a lot better [then the rest of the groups]," said Jeffries. "I had one kid that just went all out on his pumpkin, so they were pretty good."

"(Jeffries') group can do better on the pumpkins because my group was better on the computers, which they are going to need in the future," joked Haywood. "Nobody is going to need paper pumpkins [in life]; they're going to need computers in their life."

Still, all friendly competitions aside, the players left the Boys and Girls Club with a sense of satisfaction that they had indeed enhanced someone's life by giving them the motivation they need to achieve the goals in their lives through reading and learning.

"So many times you hear about athletes being negative role models," said Haywood. "Hopefully this will be one of those times where we will be a positive role model and they will look back and remember when guys like myself and Jerry Stackhouse told them that reading is cool and reading is fun and they will start to enjoy reading more."

"I think they take it to heart a little bit more because they want to prove that they can get to where you are right now," added Jeffries. "I'm only 20 years old, so I'm not that far removed from where these kids are, and I liked having the opportunity to be around them and have fun with them today."

In addition to the books passed out at the end of the program, the kids were treated to tickets to the Wizards opening night game against the Boston Celtics Thursday night.

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*All Photos Courtesy Mitchell Layton/NBAE/Getty Photos