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Back to School!

by Kelsey Spohn / Edmonton Oilers

From hockey sticks and helmets to backpacks and books, the prototypical gear for the Oilers was switched up last Tuesday, October 7. It was back to school for six Oilers players as Jordan Eberle, Mark Arcobello, Luke Gazdic, Teddy Purcell, Ben Scrivens, Matt Hendricks, David Perron, and Jesse Joenssu took to the classroom to share the importance of literacy as part of Edmonton’s Read In Week program.

Various Kindergarten to Grade 3 classrooms from Princeton School, Rundle School and St. Francis of Assisi School were treated to a special guest reader as our guys each took a turn sharing a Hockey Canada children’s book, Puckster’s New Hockey Teammate, written by Lorna Schultz Nicholson. David Perron and Jesse Joenssu also joined students from Our Lady of the Prairies, a French-immersion program, reading some classroom favourites in French.

Read In Week, an annual tradition for the Oilers, has teachers apply to be part of the program with the lucky schools being selected from a random draw. This year, Cynthia Paterson, a teacher at St. Francis of Assisi School, opted in to the program and chose to surprise her Grade 2 class with special guests Ben Scrivens and Matt Hendricks.

“There will be a lot of jaws dropping and I know the kids will be so excited,” said Paterson. “Their reactions will be priceless once they see who is paying them a visit.”

And drop they did, as enthused second graders gathered around the Oilers defenceman and back-stopper for story time. Scrivens engaged students with a spirited bout of story-telling. Getting in on the sport of reading, rugged winger, Hendricks’ animated delivery helped spread the joy of reading and shared how vital this core skillset is for youth.

“Reading is incredibly important. It helps these kids shape and grow the building blocks of education,” said Hendricks. “It strikes their imagination, it gets them thinking and it’s fun.”

Living up to his nickname ‘The Professor’, Scrivens told students to find material and subjects they’re passionate about in order to spark their individual literacy bug.

“The biggest thing is to find out what you’re interested in and branch out with different books and genres,” shared Scrivens. “Start reading and make sure you enjoy it. If you find something you like, you’ll turn it into a habit.”

And what a good habit to have.

Over at Rundle School, Gazdic and Purcell hit the books joining both a Grade 2 and Grade 3 classroom. It wasn’t all work and no play, as the Oilers engaged students in a fun Q&A, answering a range of questions from hockey to favourite subjects and hobbies for the curious students.

For Purcell, Read In Week marked his first community appearance since being acquired in the off-season and for the new guy in town, he relished the opportunity to meet some of Oil Country’s youngest and brightest.

“Pick up a book and keep at it,” said the winger. “Reading is going to keep your mind sharp and this is a big thing for anything you want to do in life. Even for me, as a hockey player, your mind must be sharp so promise me that you’ll keep reading!”

In return, both Purcell and Gazdic happily accepted Rundle School's autograph assignment sticking around to sign player cards for their new friends. Now the only homework left to do is for Oil Country’s youth to keep reading!

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