About 200 third-grade students from Prince George’s County schools arrived at FedEx Field — home of the NFL’s Washington Redskins — Tuesday morning with a gleam in their eyes as they received an inside look of the stadium. Meeting some of the players was the first thing on their visit to-do list.
But reading and learning was the true focus of the day that brought together county leaders and Redskins players to create a buzz for reading by introducing the “Redskins Read Book Challenge,” a program that offers a Redskins’ certificate of completion and prizes for area students who read 10 or more books during the 2012-2013 academic year.
The daylong kick-off provided students with guided tours of the stadium by going to various reading stations where county officials supporting the program read to them in places such as the team locker room, cheerleader practice studio, press box and field.
Templeton Elementary student Isaac Clark, 8, of Riverdale, said he most enjoyed “when we got to go down to the field. And it was cool to actually see the players.”
Redskins wide receiver Joshua Morgan and cornerback Josh Wilson read books to groups of students and spoke to them about the importance of reading and staying healthy and active as did officials including County Executive Rushern L. Baker, III (D), County State’s Attorney Angela Alsobrooks, County Fire Chief Marc Bashoor, County Schools Interim Superintendent Alvin Crawley and County Deputy Police Chief Hector Velez.
Isaac also said reading is important and was glad to see community leaders and Redskins showing them that reading is fun.
“[Reading] helps you know new bigger words so when you get older you can be smarter,” Isaac said.
The participating schools included Templeton Elementary in Riverdale, Overlook Elementary in Temple Hills, Langley Park-McCormick Elementary in Hyattsville, Forest Heights Elementary in Forest Heights, Columbia Park Elementary in Landover and William Beanes Elementary in Suitland.
Thirty students from each school were chosen to attend the kick-off event based on their behavior, attendance and grades.
Templeton Elementary Principal Ebony Harrington said she was happy to see her students participating in such a program and said she could tell they were excited to be at FedEx Field.
“It’s a message kids are really going to enjoy,” Harrington said. “They are seeing the people that they adore also have a love for reading.”
Morgan, who read “The Busy Body Book” to groups of students and led a huddle where students put their hands in a circle and shouted “Straight As,” grew up in Washington, D.C., and said he was honored to be with the students and teach them that reading will help them progress in school.
“It’s definitely a humbling experience for me to be out here,” he said. “I’m more proud of the teachers because they’re doing a great job with these students. They’re well-mannered and they’re intelligent.”
Bashoor, who read the “Red-Eyed Tree Frog” to groups of students alongside Velez, said this was a chance for police and fire/EMS officials to reach out to area youth and show them that they are there to help the community in more ways than one.
“This is a really neat idea. It’s an opportunity for us to get out in a non-threatening environment, in a non-emergency environment and share some of what these kids need, which are some adult role models,” Bashoor said. “It’s an opportunity to show county officials as real people and not just somebody responding up and down the road.”