Kyle Singler and Steve Novak read "Thunder Cake" to students at Oklahoma Christian Elementary School as part of the Thunder's Read to Achieve program, presented by American Fidelity.
Photo by Jimmy Do | OKC Thunder Photos

Novak, Singler Instill Lesson in Perseverance

By Jimmy Do | Thunder.NBA.com

With that familiar clamorous excitement of a Thunder home game at Chesapeake Energy Arena, an orchestrated “O-K-C” chant erupted amongst the throng of bouncy first graders, pulsating the library walls at Oklahoma Christian Elementary School in Edmond early Monday afternoon. For Principal Stephanie Gardner, today represented a special reward to the 72 students decked out in team colors that completed the Thunder Reading Challenge program.

“Today, we wanted to honor our children for the minutes that they have read,” Gardner said. “We’re so excited because we wanted to emphasize reading and the importance of reading to our students.”

Faces collectively lit up when Thunder guards Steve Novak and Kyle Singler appeared and greeted the overjoyed children while working their way to the front of the room. Once the excitement settled, the Thunder duo dived into the pages of Thunder Cake, a story about a young girl overcoming her fear of thunderstorms thanks to the timely baking of a special cake with her grandmother.

“It was a great group to be able to come out and spend some time with our young fans,” Novak said.

After the reading, the players got a chance to engage with the kids by fielding a variety of questions. During the Q&A session, Novak and Singler shared their personal experiences growing up and their individual journeys to the NBA. Their stories of maintaining perseverance and overcoming doubt exuded a simple, yet poignant message to the captive audience.

“I think the biggest thing is we remember being these kids’ age and what it was like looking up to an NBA athlete or someone like that. I think the platform that we have is important to use in the right way,” Novak said. “Coming out and talking about reading and just spending time with them at their school is a good way to reinforce what’s important—to get an education and to read.”

“It’s important on a lot of levels. For us to be role models to these kids is big,” Singler said. “It’s not just reading. It’s trying to connect with the kids a little bit. It gives them someone other than their teachers to come in and read to them. So it’s nice in that way.”

The school has declared the next five Mondays as “Thunder Mondays” to recognize the students’ reading achievements over the course of the program. In tandem with the Thunder organization’s Reading Timeout program, presented by American Fidelity, Gardner was delighted to be able to launch the school’s education effort with the players.

“The players shared about the things in real life that get them to where they need to be: determination, continuing with hard work and practice. Those are the things that we continue to emphasize here as a school as well,” Gardner said. “That was awesome to hear the players reiterate the same things we work on every day in the classroom.”

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