The material on the Rolling Thunder Book Bus is so good, even Thunder players Daequan Cook, Hasheem Thabeet and Hollis Thompson picked up a few books.
On Friday afternoon, several Thunder players visited Houchin Elementary in Moore, hosting a group of 80 second graders onto the Book Bus and helping them select a book. It was immediately apparent that the kids were excited to pick out a new item to take home and read, especially considering their hometown Thunder players were helping them find the right book.
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While the 7-foot-3 Thabeet sat in the driver’s seat of the bus passing out bookmarks and Thunder wristbands to the children, Cook and Thompson were helping students sift through the rows and rows of books on the bus to find the perfect one.
“I had a great time,” Cook said. “I had the opportunity to hang out with a lot of kids that love to read. I even picked up a few books myself… It’s something I like to do in my off-time when I’m just sitting at home.”
Cook snagged the classic, The Three Little Pigs and The Worst Day of My Life by Bill Cosby in the midst of helping students D’Torion grab a Junie B. Jones book and Cadence pick Froggy Plays in the Band. According to Kyle Harrison, Houchin Elementary’s principal, the fact that the Thunder and its players took the time out of its off-season to visit their school was extremely special.
“It’s very important and it’s an awesome thing for our kids,” Harrison said. “I think it’s very cool that the Oklahoma City Thunder does a program such as this to promote community involvement, not only amongst themselves but with other business to show how important it is. It’s a very exciting event and it’s really amazing that they choose to do things like this.”
Some of the kids couldn’t believe how tall Thabeet and some of the other Thunder players were, and giggled as Cook’s gregarious and funny personality shined throughout the afternoon. Mostly, it was just an enjoyable time for the students to interact with players who they don’t get to see on a regular basis.
Thabeet made sure to check in on every kid that walked on the bus, and ask them what book they chose on the way out. Even with a deep, booming voice and a slight accent, there was no mistaking the smiles that passed between Thabeet and the youngsters he laughed with on Friday.
“I made jokes to them,” Thabeet said. “And as long as we can make them smile and give them something to smile about when they get to their houses is always great. For me to be a part of the program is great.”
Having role models like these Thunder players is not only great to make kids smile at school, but it also helps highlight just how important reading is for these students. When Cook and Thabeet announced to the kids that they were going to pick up a book for themselves as well, it only motivated the students to look that much harder to find one that would interest them.
As they left the bus, Thabeet asked the students if they were going to read their book, to which the vast majority promised, “Yes!” With that motivation, Harrison could see the effect the Thunder players were having on the students as they emphasized the value of reading.
“Reading is probably the most important tool that kids can gain,” Harrison said. “It goes along with every subject that they learn and our teachers teach. To have role models such as professional basketball players stress the importance of reading to our young kids, will do nothing but help push them further to become fluent readers.”