By Adam Brady
For Francois Beauchemin and Nick Bonino, playing hockey in front of 17,000 screaming fans is old hat compared to the task they took on Tuesday afternoon.
The two Ducks veterans read to more than 250 kids in grades four through six as part of the seventh annual Ducks S.C.O.R.E. Reading is the Goal Day, held at Arovista Elementary in Brea, just a few miles from Honda Center.
Beauchemin and Bonino took turns reading from a book called Brady Brady and the Twirlin’ Torpedo, part of a series of popular hockey-themed children’s books written by author Mary Shaw.
“I think the kids really enjoy it, and so do we,” said Beauchemin, who told the kids he had read all of the Brady Brady books to his oldest son, Samuel. “You can see them really paying attention when we were reading that book to them. They get to know a little about what we do as hockey players, and we get to remind them that reading is important as well.”
Click here for a funny moment from Beauchemin during Reading is the GOAL
The assembly was the culmination of a full day in which members of the Ducks staff and the Ducks Power Players made personal classroom visits to kids ranging from pre-kindergarten through sixth grade. Each staffer stressed the importance of reading and took part in a Q&A session. During lunchtime, kids had the opportunity to play street hockey on their playground with the Ducks Street Team, using equipment the Ducks donated to the school. (The team also donated a basket of hockey-themed books and a framed team-signed jersey.)
“This is huge, especially in Orange County,” Bonino said. “There are so many kids that might not know the sport of hockey, and to bring all that equipment, I think the kids were excited about it. They seemed pretty excited when they got the gear. I know they’ll have a lot of fun with it, and I’m happy with that.”
An avid reader, Bonino was the perfect choice to take part in the event. “It hits close to home for me, because I love reading,” said the graduate of Boston University. “I’ve read a lot since I was a kid, whether it was Goosebumps or Berenstein Bears growing up, and now I take my Nook everywhere I go with me.
“It helps your vocabulary, it helps your imagination, and it gives you an out when you’re having a tough time. Hopefully if we’ve encouraged more kids to read, we’ve accomplished something pretty good here.”
Arovista Elementary School has been a participant in the Ducks S.C.O.R.E. (Scholastic Curriculum of Recreation & Education) program since its inaugural season in 2005-06, but this was the first time hosting Reading is the GOAL Day.
“It’s been a huge, exciting day,” said school principal Karen VanDine. “The kids got to hear the stories and listen to the importance of literacy. And for the players to be here and support this community, is so great. We’ve been really excited for this day, and we thank the Ducks so much.
“We tell the kids the message is about working hard and practicing, and for professional athletes to take time out of their day and show them that, we really appreciate it. They’re such role models, and the impact they have on the kids is so huge.”
Added fourth-grade teacher Tammi O’Rourke, “It was amazing. It’s so generous of the Ducks, and we were so excited. It encourages our kids to keep on reading and it really motivates them so much. To know that they played last night, and practiced this morning, for them to come over here and do this, we’re really appreciative.”
Reading is the Goal, a division of the Ducks’ S.C.O.R.E. program, is free to all fourth-grade students in Southern California and is made possible by the Anaheim Ducks Foundation. The program rewards students for their time spent reading per day within a 30-day period. Its goals are to convey the importance of reading as the foundation to success and to begin cultivating a love for reading amongst the participants in the program. Over 9,000 students from 304 classrooms benefitted from the 30-day reading program during the 2012-13 season.
For more information on the Anaheim Ducks S.C.O.R.E. program, please visit www.ducksscore.com.