With temperatures in the low-teens on Thursday morning, the students at Trillium Academy in Taylor, Mich., were actually rooting against a snow day – they didn’t want to miss their opportunity to meet a Red Wings star.
The students were the winners of this year’s Red Wings for Reading program, presented by the Michigan Educational Savings program. As a reward for months of hard work, Red Wings forward Justin Abdelkader dropped by the school to read alongside the second and third grade students.
“The students were worried with all the cold days we’ve been having that we wouldn’t have school today,” said Christina Sims, vice principal at Trillium Academy. “They were asking us not to cancel school because they were so excited for Justin’s visit.”
The school won the visit from Abdelkader by submitting the most reading entries of all elementary schools from September through February that participated in the Red Wings for Reading program, which encourages kindergarten through fifth grade students attending Michigan elementary schools to read outside of the classroom.
“It’s really important for kids to remember the importance of reading,” Abdelkader said. “With March being reading month, it worked out perfect for me to be able to come to the school today.”
Abdelkader read his favorite children’s book, "The Little Engine That Could", and also answered questions from the students – ranging from his hockey background to his favorite action movie.
“The kids were ecstatic,” Sims said. “Not only is March is reading month, but we have a really big focus on performing arts and reading to help get our students college ready.”
In addition to reading to the students, the Muskegon, Mich., native brought several gifts to reward the students for their accomplishments in the classroom.
Courtesy of MESP and the Red Wings, Abdelkader presented the school with seven boxes of books for their library, along with a signed Red Wings jersey and several pucks. The students also received goodie bags, which included drawstring bags, coloring books and crayons, pencils, stickers and temporary tattoos.
“Reading is the basis for all education,” said Jennifer Howey, senior marketing manager for MESP. “These students see people who they look up to like Justin who go out of their way to communicate how important reading is as a basis to education. It’s great for the kids.”
Abdelkader attended Michigan State University and his father and sister are both educators. As such, he knows the value of education and looks forward to continuing the Red Wings for Reading program in the future.
“Hopefully coming here today and bringing the books will keep the kids inspired to keep reading,” Abdelkader said. “It was a lot of fun and hopefully the kids enjoyed it.”