(Photo by Dan Mannes/Detroit Red Wings)
DETROIT — As a teacher at Holly Academy, Seath McVey is always looking for new ways to engage education outside of a classroom setting. When the opportunity arose to have his students participate in Justin Abdelkader’s Red Wings for Reading, he jumped at the opportunity.
A few months later, the hard work of 133 Holly Academy students earned the school the opportunity to spend Thursday afternoon at Joe Louis Arena, courtesy of Abdelkader.
“This is an unbelievable experience,” McVey said. “I can only imagine how giddy these kids are on the inside; I know I’m quite giddy on the inside. It’s an honor to come down here and we’re very grateful for Justin to host us.”
To participate in Red Wings for Reading contest, presented by Michigan Education Savings Program, elementary students were required to read three books selected by Abdelkader: “The Story of Ferdinand,” “Clifford the Big Red Dog” and “The Giving Tree” for kindergarten through second grade students, and “Stuart Little,” “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” and “Where the Mountain Meets the Moon” for third through fifth graders.
Holly Academy had more entries than any other school, and 50 students ranging from kindergarten to fifth grade were invited to watch a Red Wings practice and have Abdelkader read his favorite childhood book, “The Little Engine That Could,” to them.
“Reading is something that’s very, very important,” McVey said. “What Justin has done is just absolutely fabulous, and bringing this out to the community to put some incentives out there and celebrate reading, it gets the kids excited about it, the parents are excited about it.”
Following the book reading, Abdelkader fielded questions about everything from the Stanley Cup to pets. At the end of the event, he presented Holly Academy with an autographed set of “The ABC’s of Detroit Red Wings Hockey” books and an autographed Red Wings jersey before signing stickers that each student could take home along with goody bags, courtesy of MESP.
“It worked out great that they could come down and see a practice and ask some questions after I read the book to them,” Abdelkader said. “Just see that we’re normal people behind our helmet and behind our uniforms. There were a lot of good questions, and I thought everyone was really attentive and excited to hear the responses.”
Growing up, Abdelkader said the importance of education was always stressed in his family. His father was an educator for 35 years, and his sister currently is a teacher in the Muskegon school system. In his third year of the reading program inspired by his parents, he’s now using that notion to positively impact elementary students across Michigan.
The program is ongoing, and each student whose guardian submits a completion form will receive a fan pack with a personalized note of congratulations and the chance to attend a Red Wings 2014-15 home game, courtesy of Abdelkader.
Students are encouraged to download the Red Wings for Reading Contest Entry Form by visiting http://www.DetroitRedWings.com/reading. Full official contest rules are listed on the second page of the entry form.