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UNC basketball star schools students on reading

About 95 third graders at Rashkis Elementary School in Chapel Hill didn’t know what to expect when teachers escorted them into the school library yesterday. In minutes, University of North Carolina basketball star Marcus Paige would be reading to the rapt audience, but until he walked in, school staff wanted to keep it a secret.

Paige was invited as part of the Tar Heels Read program, which brings UNC student-athletes to Chapel Hill-Carrboro schools to read to them and inspire them to read themselves.

“Reading is basically the foundation of your entire education,” Paige would tell the students later.

David Fountain, North Carolina Director of Duke Energy, also came to read to the children. His company sponsors the Tar Heels Read program. Fountain said it does so because of a desire to help the community.

“Duke energy has long had a commitment to improving the lives of our customers in North Carolina,” he said. “Not only through providing low-cost electricity but also by providing educational opportunities.”

Hear Fountain explain why athletes are a good way to connect with students in the audio clip below:

The introduction of the program’s mystery guest fell to Fountain, and he built up the suspense just like athletes are called onto the court.

Both Paige and Fountain took turns reading to the students from the book, “Salt in His Shoes: Michael Jordan in Pursuit of a Dream.”

The book is written by Deloris Jordan, the mother of basketball legend Michael Jordan, and Michael’s sister Roslyn. According to the book’s page on Amazon.com, it tells the story of how Jordan almost gave up on basketball as a child because he thought he would never have the height he needed to be a contender. In the book, Jordan’s parents teach him what it takes to succeed.

After the reading, Paige told the students about his experiences with reading growing up and why it was useful later in life.

Fountain told students about a commercial he remembered from growing up that featured Jordan and a catchy song.

“It went like this,” he said. “Like Mike, I’d like to be like Mike.”

Then Fountain asked the students to substitute “Marcus” for Mike.” And sing the song with him.

He told the students that if they wanted to be like Paige, they were going to have to be able to read just as well as him.

Fountain and Paige then exited stage left, but the program wasn’t over. There was one more surprise: UNC-mascot Ramses the Ram. He didn’t read to the kids. He’s not much of a talker. But the students enjoyed his antics.

Paige and Fountain’s visit was perfectly timed for Rashkis Elementary, which is currently doing an annual Read-a-Thon that includes activities related to literacy and has the students keeping track of their reading.

“Reading is such an important first step for all students to be able to have access to productive lives,” Fountain said.

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Alex Granados

Alex Granados is senior reporter for EducationNC.