Skating and stick-handling are important skills for pro hockey players to acquire, but if you ask Oilers forward Erik Cole, writing complete sentences and learning to love the written word also rank near the top of the list, in the sporting world and beyond.
Earlier this month, Cole visited the Grade 1 & 2 students of Edmonton’s Parkdale School to share his joy of reading and launch the Share A Book program. Funded by the Edmonton Oilers Community Foundation and Edmonton Journal’s Raise a Reader Foundation, the program provides two new story books and a bookmark to 2,250 Grade 1 students from lower income areas of the city.
While sitting in the school library’s rocking chair, Cole thrilled students by delivering an animated, interactive reading of Gilles Tibo’s lighthearted tale “Where’s My Hockey Sweater?” The story followed young Nicolas as he scrambled through his messy room trying to gather all his equipment for a morning hockey practice.
Not only did Cole appreciate the book’s lesson of tidiness (“I’m a bit of a neat freak and I sure spend a lot of time cleaning up after my kids,” he said with a laugh), he also emphasized the importance of reading to the attentive children in the room.
“I always get a good kick out of reading to kids, the imagination that they have with some stories when you ask them certain questions,” he said after the session. “It can be a lot of fun, and it’s certainly an important aspect of my life, having children. I think it’s something that we can all work on, helping children pick up books to read and grow as people.”
“I think reading is one of the most important building blocks of a full life, and being able to read and read well and understand direction is not only going to help throughout their early years in school, but definitely later on in life,” Cole added.
The Grade 1 & 2 students were thrilled to meet the friendly Oiler and receive their new reading materials, and the school’s Grade 5 & 6 students were equally thrilled to see their hard work come to fruition. Near the end of November, the older students descended on the Edmonton Oilers offices to put together the 2,250 packages.
“We created assembly lines . . . it was just like Santa’s workshop,” EOCF Community Partnership Coordinator Amanda Penner explained. Following Erik Cole’s reading, each older student paired up with a younger student to read the second book, “We Share Everything” by Robert Munsch.
For more information on the Edmonton Oilers Community Foundation, please visit http://www.oilersfoundation.ca