A look of recognition shot across the face of one elementary school student at Spencer Elementary School on Friday afternoon. It wasn’t that he recognized Russell Westbrook, Thunder point guard and five-time All-Star, as he walked in the room. Instead, the first words out of the child’s mouth were, “I met you at the City Rescue Mission!”
During the opening of his Why Not? Foundation’s ninth Russell’s Reading Room, Westbrook had a flashback moment to a community event in the past when the Thunder visited the City Rescue Mission, a wonderful place that provides resources and shelter for the homeless and near-homeless. This child had met Westbrook long ago, and was now reuniting in a happy, vibrant classroom filled with hundreds of books.
“It’s crazy, you’d never imagine it that over many years that I’d be able to impact kids in different ways,” Westbrook said, shaking his head in amazement. “To be able do it through reading is a blessing for me and something I don’t take for granted.”
Spencer Elementary’s Principal, Sandy Jackson, paced back and forth along the bookshelves that lined the walls of Russell’s Reading Room, in awe of both the financial donation and the way Westbrook reached out to the school to help. In Spencer, many children don’t have books of their own at home, or the ability to continuing their education once they leave school.
Through both the infrastructure Westbrook created for the students in the form of the beautiful library and the encouragement he showed on Friday, the kids have the means and motivation to excel in reading.
“Being able to choose a free book, sometimes those things are difficult in their lives,” Jackson said. “Our state isn’t everything that it needs to be when it comes to our reading. Our district needs help.”
“You have a guy like Mr. Westbrook buying books, and putting free books in their hands is almost as important as putting free lunch on the table,” Jackson continued.
After cutting the ribbon and officially opening up the room to student use, Westbrook handed out book “coupons” that the students could cash in for a book of their own. He then took a tour of the bookshelves with each student to make sure that they found a book that suited their interests. For Westbrook, inspiring a child to read isn’t just about putting a book in their hand, it’s about ensuring that the words will spark their imagination and their love for learning will follow suit.
“It’s very important, regardless of what they want to read about, as long as they’re excited to read,” Westbrook explained. “The more books you put in front of them and give them the opportunity to have access to books, they want to read them.”
Full Video: Russell's Reading Room Makes Impact