By Jenelyn Russo
Special to AnaheimDucks.com
It was a day to celebrate hockey and literacy as the Anaheim Ducks hosted their ninth annual Ducks S.C.O.R.E. Reading is the GOAL Day earlier this week at Hoover Elementary School in Santa Ana.
The event got underway with Ducks staff members visiting the school’s kindergarten through fifth grade classrooms to read to the students. Some of the books shared that morning included hockey-themed titles such as "The Hockey Sweater," "The Magic Hockey Stick" and several from the "Brady Brady" series.
In addition to reading to the kids, Ducks staff members conveyed the importance of literacy and life-long learning while sharing about their roles within the organization. Each classroom received Ducks-themed foam pucks, stickers and bookmarks.
A participant in the Ducks S.C.O.R.E. (Scholastic Curriculum of Recreation & Education) program since its inception in 2005, Hoover Elementary was selected as this year’s recipient of the Reading is the GOAL Day as a celebration of the school’s commitment to literacy and their consistent participation in the program.
|“It creates a higher interest in reading,” said Cortez of the Ducks Reading is the GOAL program. “The students are reading so many books now. And what a wonderful way to introduce the sport of hockey to the kids.” |
One of the initiatives of S.C.O.R.E., the 30-day Reading is the GOAL program rewards students for their time spent reading and is free to all fourth graders in Southern California, thanks to support from the Anaheim Ducks Foundation. Last season, more than 9,000 students from more than 300 classrooms participated in and benefited from the literacy program.
In his first year as principal at Hoover Elementary, Melvin Cortez is pleased to see his students get excited about reading.
“It creates a higher interest in reading,” said Cortez of the Ducks Reading is the GOAL program. “The students are reading so many books now. And what a wonderful way to introduce the sport of hockey to the kids.”
The festivities continued on the playground, as lunch recess brought the kids to outside to participate in some street hockey games, led by the Anaheim Ducks Street Team.
Fourth grade teacher Lisa Ryan is Hoover Elementary’s liaison for the Ducks S.C.O.R.E. program and has seen over the 10 years the school has participated how the kids effectively connect with both reading and hockey.
“I think it’s made the kids more excited to read,” Ryan said. “They love to track their time, and when the rewards come, it’s the best day of the year.
“Having a different face read to the kids is important. What they are learning in the classroom through this program relates to aspects of life they wouldn’t think of.”
The day-long celebration concluded with the fourth- and fifth-graders attending an afternoon assembly hosted by Kent French and featuring Anaheim Ducks players Chris Stewart and Josh Manson.
With many wearing their Ducks #PaintItOrange t-shirts received during the club’s playoff campaign last spring, the 150 students welcomed Stewart and Manson with cheers as they took the stage.
The players read Brady Brady and the Most Important Game to the kids, a hockey-themed story that focuses on respecting your teammates and always playing fair. Stewart and Manson stressed the importance of not only literacy, but also hard work and dedication in whatever career paths they may choose.
They then took questions from the crowd, sharing some insight into their lives in the NHL.
|“It was amazing because I got to see two Ducks players. It was pretty cool. I love that they made a place to play hockey outside. The whole day was amazing. I’m glad my school got to do this.” |
When asked which city is their favorite to visit while on the road, both responded with answers that took them back home where they can be near family and friends, Stewart preferring Toronto and Manson (a Saskatchewan native) enjoying the visits to Calgary and Edmonton.
One student asked Manson what it felt like to score his first career NHL goal, something the defenseman accomplished in Anaheim’s 4-2 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets on November 6.
“I’ve worked my entire life to get to the NHL,” Manson said. “I was really excited to finally get it.”
Fourth-grade student Caitlin Osorio thought the entire day – from the classroom reading to the street hockey at recess to the assembly –
was an incredible experience for her and her classmates.
“It was amazing because I got to see two Ducks players. It was pretty cool,” Osorio said. “I love that they made a place to play hockey outside. The whole day was amazing. I’m glad my school got to do this.”
Osorio got the chance to pose a question to the players, asking if either of them have lost any teeth due to playing hockey.
So far, Manson has all of his teeth, but Stewart’s answer drew gasps from the crowd as he shared that he’s had his front four teeth knocked out not once but twice in his playing career.
Both players were grateful to be a part of a day that will leave a lasting impact in the area of literacy on these local students.
|“It’s big for us to give back to the community that supports us, and it’s great to come here and talk about reading, which is an essential skill for kids,” Stewart said. “Hopefully they can now put a face to the name and maybe we’ve won over a couple more fans.” |
“It’s big for us to give back to the community that supports us, and it’s great to come here and talk about reading, which is an essential skill for kids,” Stewart said. “Hopefully they can now put a face to the name and maybe we’ve won over a couple more fans.”
Added Manson, “They seemed excited to see some hockey players and to be around it all. We want to show them and lead by example that reading is a good thing and an essential part of life.”
Stewart and Manson, joined by the Power Players, presented Principal Cortez with a collection of books for the school’s library, a full set of street hockey equipment and a framed Ducks third jersey autographed by the team.
Thankful for the opportunity to host a day that promotes reading, Cortez expressed that the impact of an event like this lasts long after the players have left campus.
“The effects of this program don’t end today, Cortez said. “The reward is watching what happens afterwards – the increase in reading and the introduction to street hockey. I’m very thankful to the Ducks and everyone who helped to make this happen.”
For more information on the Anaheim Ducks S.C.O.R.E. program, visit ducksscore.com.