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Blue Jackets, PNC Bank & YMCA of Central Ohio team up for "Timeout To Read" program

by Katie Foglia / Columbus Blue Jackets

PNC Bank, the YMCA of Central Ohio and the Blue Jackets have partnered to develop “TIMEOUT TO READ”— an ongoing program designed to be fun and encourage children to develop and maintain healthy reading habits.

The program launched in February at the Hilltop YMCA Gym, where there were various hockey-themed stations set up around the gym. Hockey books, hockey snacks, hockey coloring pages and other crafts, in addition to an in-door floor hockey set-up were available to all the kids in attendance.   

“We invited the community, any (YMCA) members in addition to five of our preschool locations to kick-off the event,” said Bobbi Shannon, the Metropolitan Director of Early Education for the YMCA of Central Ohio. “The purpose is to really just get kids excited about literacy and to show parents different ways that can have literacy activities at home with their kids.”

Four-year-old Chaz Mills— who was at the YMCA with his great-grandma Charlene Cohagan— got a big hug from his new pal Stinger and said: “I like playing hockey with (Stinger).”

“He’s a very special little boy… he’s been a big part of our life and this is great for the kids. I’m just so happy,” Cohagan said. “All week he’s been talking about Stinger and he really had no idea who he was, but we showed him a picture and he’s all excited.”

“He’s never played hockey,” Cohagan added. “I just signed him up for it here at the Y. Now, I’m excited to get him to a Blue Jackets game. We want to get him to be a part of sports, and this is really good for Columbus, that’s for sure. It’s done a lot of good for a lot of people.”

The goal of the program is to encourage 30 minutes a day, for at least five days a week, for three “periods” (weeks). Reading sessions include both in class and at home.

“It’s all about reading at home, reading during school and very simple literacy activities that they can do anywhere,” Shannon added.

The minutes read are tracked on a fun skating rink and Zamboni in each YMCA early learning classroom, and tracked at home on a Weekly Reading Tracking sheet.

“At PNC, our philanthropy is focused on early childhood education,” said Shannon Morgan, the VP of Community Relations for PNC. “We do a lot of work in early childhood, particularly with kids at centers like this—the YMCA has been a wonderful partner for us.

“So when we had the opportunity to work with the Blue Jackets to help encourage kids to read and to help get them ready for kindergarten, it was a natural fit for us. It supports our corporate partnership with the Blue Jackets, but it also supports our philanthropy with PNC Foundation.”

The TIMEOUT TO READ materials and incentives add fun elements to the reading experience and encourage parents to participate in reading at home with their child.

Incentives are given to kids when they have completed a period (week) of reading. After the first week they receive a Blue Jackets sticker, after the second week they receive a TIMEOUT TO READ bookmark, and after the third week they receive a Chiller Ice Arena skating pass and a certificate signed by Stinger.

“Having Stinger here to help encourage kids to read is really important for us,” Morgan said. “I think kids are naturally drawn to our professional athletes and our hockey players, and I think they are good role models for our kids to help them think about what they need to be doing in terms of getting ready for school.”

The early learning site that accumulates the most minutes will receive a pizza party hosted by everyone’s favorite bug, Stinger.

“In today’s times, families don’t have a lot of money and we want our kids involved and this is ideal,” Cohagan said. “Giving the kids something to reach for—this is awesome. In the winter, there’s not a whole lot for us to do with him, so this is an opportunity for him to be around other kids.

“Another reason why I wanted to come is to get a strategy of how we’re gonna work (reading) in, because he’s a boy and he wants to play... so if he’s got something like this on an agenda that we can do every night with him, that would be awesome.”

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