DETROIT — Growing up in the state and attending college at Michigan State University, the Michigan school system has played a major role in the development of Red Wings forward Justin Abdelkader. Six years removed from his playing days at the college level, Abdelkader has taken on a reverse role, now playing an important part in the education system.
Through Abby’s All Stars, the Muskegon native promotes reading amongst young students from kindergarten to fifth grade. Abdelkader challenges children throughout the state of Michigan to read three different books during the school year. He said initially, the program focused on the Detroit area but has since expanded to any child or school in the state.
“Obviously, education has always been important with my family and my dad and sister are both educators,” he said. “I always enjoyed working with kids and this was a way to do that.”
Abdelkader’s dad, Joe, spent 35 years as a teacher in the Reeths-Puffer school system and his sister, Jamie, is a teacher in the Muskegon school system.
In addition to the reading program, Abdelkader also hosts an elementary student and their parent or guardian at each of the Wings’ regular-season home games. He said this provides a special incentive to motivate students to do well in school.
“I mean a lot of guys have great initiatives, great player programs,” he said. “I think mine is something special and unique that hits close to home for me and I enjoy it.”
The school with the most entries between Sept. 2, 2014 and Feb. 1, 2015 will get the unique opportunity for Abdelkader to read to a class. If the class is within 30 minutes of Joe Louis Arena, Abdelkader will read a book to a classroom at the school. If the winning school is more than 30 minutes away from the arena, the Wings will invite the class to take a field trip to the arena where he will read to them.
The Red Wings for Reading program is in its third year with Abdelkader at the forefront. He visited Trillium Academy in suburban Taylor — last season’s contest winners — in March and read his favorite children’s book to the students. A similar visit is planned for this season in support of March is Reading Month.
All kindergarten through fifth grade students attending a Michigan elementary school are encouraged to enter the contest by reading three popular children’s books for their age group, as selected by Abdelkader, or by having someone read the three books to them.
Every qualified student whose guardian submits an entry form will receive an exclusive Red Wings’ reading fan pack and be entered to win a pair of Red Wings tickets to a home game during the 2014-15 season, courtesy of Abdelkader.
Students who would like to enter the contest are encouraged to download the Red Wings for Reading Contest Entry Form. Full official contest rules are listed on the second page of the entry form.