Smile Politely

Readig is Fun and Demental

Reading Week at Champaign’s Barkstall Elementary School concluded last Friday with Celebrity Reader Day. Rumor has it that Matt Dillon showed up to read The Outsiders to the fifth graders. But so far I’m the only one to have access to that rumor.

It’s also rumored that Illini athletes provided the brunt of the scholarship. This should surprise no one, as the teams spend about a million hours catering to the needs of the community.

It may be merely a rumor that Hillary Haen, Laura DeBruler and Johannah Bangert represented the volleyball team at the Barkstall event. That’s what I was told, and I choose to accept the information as truthful.

On the other hand, I have actual documentary footage of basketball team readers. For example, in this picture Future Star Player Alex Legion displays a book on how to shoot a basketball.
Of the experience, Legion said “You get so much attention as a basketball player here at Illinois, and with that publicity I think there’s a responsibility to give back. My whole life has pretty much been all about basketball, but there’s obviously more to life than ball and sometimes we need to be reminded of that. We went to the children’s hospital here in town the last two seasons and those visits really stuck with me.

“You can be worried about losing a game or not playing well, and then you go in a hospital room and meet a sick child, and it really puts things in perspective. Taking part in community service events is important and something I plan to do more of in the future. I really respect the guys that put a lot of hours into it. Trent has done a ton of events with FCA, and people still talk about all the school visits that Dee did when he was here and what a great impact he had on everyone.”

The very hopeful news of the day is that having shown the book to the children, Legion then read it.

Bill Cole also read to the kids at Barkstall. And he too presented a very proper, formal statement about how great it is to be nice to people.

“It’s important for us to be visible in the community. I especially enjoy the opportunity to be around kids, whether its working with them at a basketball clinic, reading to them at a school visit, or just talking to a class, answering their questions. It’s good for the kids because they get to know us and can relate to us as people, and not just as basketball players that they see on TV. And I like it for that exact same reason. Participating in these events lets me feel like I’m giving back and helping people, and I’m not on this campus just to practice and play basketball.”

The mens basketball team is known for its scholarship
. The team is also known for having not as many scholarships as it has scholars. Especially in 2010.

In this photo, Assistant coach Jay Price contemplates which player should get disappeared.

Meanwhile, Mike Davis read Sally Jean the Bicycle Queen to a group of 7-year-olds. The book tells the story of a girl whose parents can’t afford to buy her a bike of her own. Through her own initiative, hard work and perseverance, Sally is able to build her own bicycle from spare parts.

The message was especially poignant in this time of economic uncertainty: We don’t know if today’s parents will be able to afford much of anything, so it’s best if children learn to read. And even better, if they can teach themselves to be mechanical engineers.

Later, Davis explained to the rapt audience that their parents wouldn’t have to worry about paying for college if they would all make an effort to grow extremely tall, and develop a deadly 12-foot jump shot. Meanwhile, coach Price sized up an unusually gangly first grader with size 9 shoes.

But it wasn’t just athletes who came to prove they can read.

Crazy coot, former amateur Big League Chew bubble gum enthusiast and current Urbana Kindergarten svengali Mister Stephens was on hand as well.  No one remembers whether he read anything, because Mister Stephens hypnotized the youngsters with silly songs about chicken feet. He also hypnotized chickens with songs about children feet.*pqk28uiz*6om*CQLysAVrqFqYqGXRKRmGL6mI6l4CayobX6*9xC4hBp3bsTgnbwP/MrStephenswithKindergarteners.jpg?width=737&height=564

Channel 15’s Steve Breitwieser read excerpts from the Jeff Foxworthy book Dirt on My Shirt and then asked the children if they could spot the redneck character in the book. Breitwieser told the class he hails from the Dallas area, and can spot a redneck a mile off. He explained that northeast Texas has an enormous ethnic German-Lutheran population, and that none of them are rednecks. That’s Houston.

As a prelude to the upcoming Ethnology & Nomenclature Week, Fourth Grade teacher Miss Costello asked whether their guest knew the derivation of his name. The sportscaster divulged that “Breitwieser” is German for “beer & a sausage.”

Champaign Mayor Jerry Schweighart also participated.
Because he can’t read,
Schweighart instead performed magic tricks — including his famous make a budget surplus disappear trick.

It was a great day for all involved, and a really sad day for all the poor suckers whose parents couldn’t get them into Barkstall. It’s probably because their parents don’t love them as much. The hourly federally mandated No Child Left Behind reading tests showed marked improvement in retention skills. By the end of the day, all the children were finally literate.

Afterward, Davis stuck around to pose for pictures with the teachers

and students.

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