Surrounded by coloring books, cursive charts, world maps and a fish tank, Penguins forward Craig Adams
read to two fourth grade classes Friday afternoon at First Street Elementary School in Canonsburg as the new spokesperson for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review’s Newspapers in Education program.
The Newspapers in Education program is part of the Tribune-Review’s Trib Total Media and provides newspapers to area classrooms at no charge, said Kathy Crossey, the Newspapers in Education coordinator. The Penguins help to promote this literacy program by coming out and reading to the schools during the year.
After reading Chris Gall’s There’s Nothing to Do on Mars, a children’s book that Adams brought from his own home, he openly answered questions and took pictures with the quiet, wide-eyed students sitting with their legs neatly folded on the brown carpet in front of him.
Many of the students and teachers also wore Penguins jerseys and t-shirts to express their support of the team.
“It’s definitely nice to get out into a neighborhood and a town that you haven’t been to before,” Adams said. “It’s been a long time since I’ve been in a school with kids this young. It’s neat to go in the classrooms and see the things they’re learning and the things they’re thinking about, especially now that I have kids myself. It’s something that I think about more, too, so it was a lot of fun.”
The Harvard University graduate discussed everything from where he grew up and how he became a professional hockey player to his favorite subject in school and what his middle name is. The nine- and 10-year-olds even tested his math skills after one child challenged him to multiply 81 and nine on the chalkboard at the front of the room.
After solving the problem to the amazement of the fourth graders, Adams demonstrated to the class that although he has played hockey in the National Hockey League for years, he still believes that education is very important to achieving success in life.
“I think that it’s exciting for the kids to meet him in person and realize that he’s a real person,” assistant principal Tula Dziak said. “He did the same things that they are doing. He went to elementary school. He has a favorite subject and practiced, learned, studied, went to college at a university. So, I think it becomes more attainable for them. They can grab their dream and be able to do it just like he did.”
“Now he gets to come back to the community and say, ‘Guess what? You can do it, too, if you keep going, keep practicing, keep studying. You can become whatever you’d like to become.’ I think that’s exciting for all of the kids.”
The Penguins wouldn’t be here in Pittsburgh if it wasn’t for the support of the community, the support of the fans. You can’t find a better sports town in the way that they support their teams, so for us to give back in different ways ... it is important - Craig Adams
And with a two-and-a-half-year-old son, Rhys Argeo, and an eight-month-old daughter, Francesca Alice, Adams is no stranger to reading books to children.
“It’s non-stop reading,” Adams said. “It’s not just before bed. My mother-in-law is a librarian, so we have literally hundreds and hundreds of books in the house. I don’t know if it was just instilled in them at an early age, but they just love reading. My son – we probably read to him literally an hour or two a day. He loves it, and we love it, too. I think it’s a good start.”
“My daughter’s getting into it now, too, where she likes her books before bed,” he added. “Some of them we’ve read hundreds of times now, but it’s a lot of fun. I think it’s a great way for them to learn.”
After discussing what the students were learning this year and what different books they have read for class, the Calgary, Alberta, native showed the kids a copy of the “Summer with Stanley” book that the Penguins donated to the elementary school’s library. The book describes what each player did with the Stanley Cup on the day that he got to keep it for himself, and includes a picture of Adams’ daughter sitting in the Cup.
The students giggled at the picture, showing that they were more than happy to have him there.
“They’ve been very excited,” Dziak said. “The fourth grade teachers certainly have been trying to calm them down and everything, but it was interesting that as soon as he walked in, it was kind of like they were star-struck – very quiet, kind of nervous. He’s just very friendly and interacts so well with the kids that I think they became comfortable and were able to ask questions.”
With the Penguins recently participating in the “Pens and Pins” bowling event on Jan. 22 to support the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Adams said that he understands the importance of giving back to the community to better the lives of others.
“The Penguins wouldn’t be here in Pittsburgh if it wasn’t for the support of the community, the support of the fans,” he said. “You can’t find a better sports town in the way that they support their teams, so for us to give back in different ways – whether it be the bowling event or a day like today – it is important. In the grand scheme of things, they’re easy things for us to do, and I think they mean a lot to the people that we’re doing them for. We need to continue to do that.”