BY KEN MORSE
Reading is fundamental in a way that paves the path to academic success. Guest reader programs have inspired students throughout Naugatuck schools over the years. Read Across America Day, an event that promotes literacy in local schools, was celebrated on March 2 and was well-received by both students and teachers.
“The students are always so excited to have guest readers come and read to the class,” said Maple Hill School first grade teacher Jodie Burns. “I spoke to school principal Lisa Romano about having student-athletes read to the students. The younger students really look up to these athletes and it makes a big difference.”
On March 27, Greyhound Nation, the student-athlete leadership group, sent 44 athletes on a reading tour across Naugatuck to all the schools. The group, inspired by sisters Sophia and Ava DeFilippo, began at the start of the school year and is advised by assistant athletic director Jennifer Stone.
“The tour began at City Hill Middle School,” said Stone. “A question/answer discussion took place between the NHS athletes and the City Hill athletes about what it’s like to be a ‘Greyhound’.”
From there the tour visited all the elementary schools around town. The student-athletes shared their own personal slideshows, introducing and telling a little bit about themselves.
“What better way than to give back to the community that supports us than to go into the schools and be a mentor to these young students,” said Naugatuck quarterback and baseball pitcher Blake Stone.
Many of the former elementary students, who are now student-athletes at NHS, were excited to return to see their former teachers, and the teachers were just as excited to see how much their former students have progressed.
“Our guest readers, Manase (Mutshima) and Melih (Yilmaz), were amazing,” said Maple Hill first grade teacher Kim Bisson. “They were both so kind and patient with the students as they asked questions and made comments.
“I loved how they spoke about the importance of working hard and persevering. The respect they had towards each other was also inspiring. They were amazing role models for my class.”
Each student-athlete then read a picture book aloud to the classroom. The elementary students had so much fun meeting the athletes, learning about them, and asking them questions.
“It was a learning experience for the elementary students as well as the athletes,” said NHS cheerleader Cami Smith. “I learned how funny six-year olds are.”
One teacher remarked on a survey that first grade students at Andrew Avenue Elementary School couldn’t stop talking about the big high school kids.
“It was truly a wonderful experience,” said NHS assistant athletic director Stone. “For the elementary students, for the student-athletes, for the teachers and for the Naugatuck Public Schools.”